Doctrine of Substituted Judgment New Jersey

"The common law equitable doctrine of substituted judgment encompasses the view that a court has inherent power to deal with the estate of an incompetent in the same manner as the incompetent would if he or she was able to function at full capacity." In re Labis, 314 N.J. Super. 140, 146, 714 A.2d 335 (App.Div.1998). the doctrine was applied in In re Trott, 118 N.J. Super. 436, 288 A.2d 303 (Ch. Div.1972), which held that, under the doctrine of parens patriae, the court may intervene in the management and administration of an incompetent's estate for the benefit of the incompetent or the estate. 118 N.J. Super. at 440, 288 A.2d 303. In that case, the court permitted a guardian bank to make intervivos gifts to the eighty-five year-old incompetent's grandchildren, the sole heirs under her will, for "the principal if not the sole reason . . . of the possible saving of death taxes." Id. at 439, 288 A.2d 303. The court set forth a cogent five-part analysis to determine whether to authorize such gifts from the incompetent's estate, considering whether: (1) the mental and physical condition of the incompetent are such that the possibility of her restoration to competency is virtually nonexistent; (2) the assets of the estate of the incompetent remaining after the consummation of the proposed gifts are such that, in the light of her life expectancy and her present condition of health, they are more than adequate to meet all of her needs . . .; (3) the donees constitute the natural objects of the bounty of the incompetent . . .; (4) the transfer will benefit and advantage the estate of the incompetent by a reduction of death taxes; (5) there is no substantial evidence that the incompetent, as a reasonably prudent person, would, if competent, not make the gifts proposed in order to effectuate a saving of death taxes. Id. at 443-44, 288 A.2d 303.