When a guardianship is established, the appointed guardian has the legal responsibility to manage the affairs of an incapacitated individual. Through the guardianship process, the court can appoint a person, agency, or institution to act as guardian for a person deemed to be legally incapacitated. If someone you love has been rendered unable to manage their own affairs, you may find yourself in the midst of guardianship proceedings. Here is some of what you will need to know,
How Does Guardianship Work in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, those people aged 18 or older are presumed to have the capacity to make their own decision and manage their own affairs. Sometimes, however, a person will lose this capacity due to age, illness or injuries. As a result, the incapacitated individual needs the assistance of another in order to have their affairs managed. This is where guardianship comes into play.
Prior to guardianship proceedings, a probate court must first find that the person is legally incapacitated. Incapacitation means that the person is unable, in whole or in part, to manage their own affairs. Such affairs include those of both a financial or medical nature. It merits mentioning that guardianship is considered to be a very restrictive arrangement for the person subject to the guardianship, who is referred to as the “ward.” Because of the restrictive nature of a guardianship arrangement, the probate court will evaluate whether or not there are less restrictive alternatives that would still serve and protect the interests of the proposed ward. If there are not, and the court deems the person to be incapacitated, a guardianship will be established.
If you are looking to step into the role of guardian for a loved one or want to request someone else be appointed as guardian of your loved one, you will need to file a petition for guardianship with the probate court. In your petition, you are required to disclose the reasons why you think a guardian should be appointed. All interested parties must be given at least 20 days’ notice prior to the scheduling of the guardianship hearing, allowing them time to object if they so choose to.
At the guardianship hearing, there will be an opportunity for evidence to be presented concerning the incapacitation of your loved one as well as why you believe that establishing a guardianship is necessary. You will need to be able to present evidence from a qualified medical professional concerning the physical and mental status of your loved one and whether this medical professional supports the establishment of a guardianship. If the court deems it necessary to establish a guardianship, then a guardian will be appointed. As long as a person or entity has no conflict of interest, they are able to serve as guardian. Being a family member of the ward is not considered to be a conflict of interest.
Estate Planning Attorneys
Do you think your loved one needs a guardianship in place? Talk to the dedicated team at Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace about your options. Contact us today.