At some point, a loved one may become incapacitated due to injury, illness, or simply old age. Regardless, it could leave them unable to make critical medical or financial decisions for themselves. Without a legally designated decision-maker, their well-being could be put in serious jeopardy. In such a situation, a Pennsylvania guardianship may need to be established so that a court-appointed guardian can make decisions on their behalf.
Guardianships in Pennsylvania
Under Pennsylvania law, anyone who is interested in the welfare of an allegedly incapacitated person can petition to establish a guardianship. Keep in mind, however, that the petitioner bears the burden of showing that the guardianship is necessary. This includes showing that there are not less restrictive means available to protect the incapacitated individual. Because of the serious nature of a guardianship, the standard of proof for establishing that a guardianship is necessary is clear and convincing evidence. The only higher standard of proof than this is beyond a reasonable doubt, which is used in criminal proceedings.
If you are considering seeking the establishment of a guardianship for a loved one, you should first think about whether you can produce sufficient evidence to meet the high burden required for a court to decide that a guardianship is necessary in the first place. This means you must be able to show that the individual is incapacitated by clear and convincing evidence. You will need to be able to show that there is a need for the guardianship by clear and convincing evidence. You will also need to show that there is not an available and adequate, as well as less restrictive, alternative to guardianship. Prior to submitting your petition, you should also think about who would be best to serve in the role of guardian.
A petition for guardianship should be filed in Pennsylvania Orphans’ Court. The petition must assert all relevant facts to demonstrate the appropriateness of a guardianship. You must pay close attention to providing the specific information required of this kind of petition. For instance, you must provide the names and addresses of yourself, the petitioner, as well as the incapacitated person and any heirs of the incapacitated person. The petition must also detail the proposed guardianship’s relationship to the incapacitated person as well as whether the guardian has received any type of guardian training.
Once the petition is filed, a specific judge will be assigned to the case. The petition will be reviewed and then the matter will be scheduled for a hearing. At the hearing, total incapacity must be established. The petitioner will then need to show that a guardianship is necessary and that there are no other available, adequate, and less restrictive alternatives.
In the event that you are appointed guardian, you will be granted certain powers and responsibilities regarding the incapacitated individual, referred to as the “ward.” Your central duty is to act in the best interest of the ward whenever possible. You will also need to comply with reporting requirements relating to the Pennsylvania guardianship tracking system.
Estate Planning Attorneys
Is your loved one in need of a guardianship? Do not delay in reaching out to our team at Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace for assistance. Contact us today.