The Superior Court of New Jersey ruled that Karen would be the best guardian for Floretta. Ben appealed to the Appellate Division.
First, the court considered whether Ben should have preference as guardian because he was married to Floretta. While family members have preference, the court held, the law allows “the trial court the discretion to appoint a guardian in the best interests of the incapacitated person. The statute does not mandate that the first choice when appointing a guardian must be the incapacitated person’s spouse.”
The court also said that Floretta was competent when she executed her powers of attorney and medical directive and it looked at her relationship with her daughter. Karen had been helping Floretta with her finances since the death of Floretta’s first husband, and she was named on her mother’s bank accounts. Floretta’s Social Security and pension receipts were deposited into a joint account Karen managed. The court noted that Floretta chose to hire a New Jersey attorney—not one in Virginia, where she had lived with Ben—in case she was incapacitated, and chose not to advise Ben of her decision to appoint Karen. The court concluded that Floretta’s relationship with her daughter showed she was not unduly influenced, as Ben had argued.
The court ruled that appointing Karen as her guardian was in Floretta’s best interests.
Robin Gerber is a lawyer and the author of Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her.