A religious dispute involving a battle for control of Brooklyn’s Satmar Chassidic Community failed to find a forum in the Kings County Supreme Court when a petition for the appointment of a guardian of the Grand Rabbi’s person and property was denied.The petition was brought by six of the Grand Rabbi’s eighty six grandchildren.

In a decision worthy of King Solomon, himself, the court threaded its way through a myriad of warring factions and conflicting issues. The Matter of Teitelbaum 100180/05 (reported in the New York Law Journal on November 18,2005) voiced the court’s reluctance to involve itself in a religious controversy when the parties wished to have their differences adjudicated by a Jewish Rabbinical court , or Beit Din which the secular court recognizes as having the same power as an arbitrator to decide disputes which are submitted to it upon the consent of all parties . One of the problems here was that the dispute boiled over into the Supreme Court when there was no agreement as to just which Beit Din would be chosen for this purpose.

At the same time , the court determined that it was the proper venue in which to determine issues involving guardianship. It then went on to note that the petition lacked specificity as to particular allegations as might support the application to support an appointment of a guardian and was predicated upon conclusory allegations.

At the root of the court’s decision, however, was the finding that the Grand Rabbi had duly executed a valid health care proxy and durable power of attorney. That , the court stated, totally eliminated the need for the appointment of a guardian. It further opined that even if it had made a finding that the Grand Rabbi had been incapacitated, there would be no need to appoint a guardian which should be done only as a last resort when there are no available resources or alternatives available to protect an incapacitated person . The court stated that ” an individual’s plan for management of his affairs (either property or personal) obviates the need for a guardian”.

The moral here for all of us is that we should make our own choices while we are healthy and competent. The appointment of someone you know and trust to hold your health care proxy and power of attorney will minimize the chances that a considerable chunk of your assets will be eaten by a court proceeding to select a guardian you might not have wished to have control your assets and make your life choices.