How does a Pennsylvania court appoint a guardian to a minor or an adult deemed incapacitated? What conditions must be in place for someone to gain legal guardianship in PA?
These are just a few of the questions the attorneys at May Herr & Grosh are answering for anyone who wants to become better educated on guardianship law in Pennsylvania, the legal process surrounding guardianship proceedings, state laws regarding power of attorney and estate planning for those unable to care for themselves, and more.
If you’d like to find out of you are a qualified individual—someone who can petition for guardianship of a family member or other alleged incapacitated person—continue reading. And if you would like to speak with a lawyer at May Herr & Grosh about possibly obtaining court-appointed guardianship in PA, get in touch with us today.
What is Legal Guardianship?
A minor (someone under the age of 18) requires a guardian. In most cases, that guardian is a parent. However, in situations where the child’s parents are deceased or incarcerated, for instance, a legal guardian may be appointed.
In a typical situation, an individual who is 18 years of age or older has the right to make their own decisions. However, if a person is incapacitated and proven by a court to be unable to make sound decisions, a judge can appoint a legal guardian. If a guardian is appointed, the person they make decisions for is known as the ward.
Who May Need a Legal Guardian?
A legal guardian can be appointed to a minor or an adult deemed incapacitated. But what does the term incapacitated cover? Criteria can vary, but in general, an incapacitated individual can be developmentally disabled or an aging adult with diminished cognitive ability. These are just a few examples of situations that might require legal guardianship.
What are the Responsibilities of a Court-Ordered Guardian?
Guardianships vary greatly, and legal guardians’ responsibilities are tailored to the needs of their wards.
By speaking with an attorney skilled in legal guardianship cases in PA, you can file a petition that includes specific areas where assistance will be required. Some examples include a power of attorney, guardian of the estate, medical care supervision, management of finances, estate planning, and more.
How Long Will it Take to Acquire Legal Guardianship in PA?
Every case and filing is unique; however, you can count on having to file a petition, wait 20 days for any interested party to object, and attend a hearing where your guardianship petition will be approved or denied. Only the lawyer handling your case can offer an approximate timeline.
Let us help you!
What are the Qualifications for Being Appointed a Guardian in PA?
Being placed in control of another person’s affairs comes with significant responsibilities; therefore, a court will determine if A) the person needing care is, in fact, incapacitated and B) if the person petitioning for guardianship is qualified to fulfill their duties.
An attorney can help you gather the necessary evidence to prove both points, making it more likely that you will be appointed guardian of the person in question.
What Should I Expect During Guardianship Proceedings?
When awarding legal guardianship in PA, courts consider many factors. As a petitioner, you must file in the correct court (probate court, for example), write a petition, be present at the hearing, submit to an independent evaluation if ordered, and more. Every filing is unique, and only an attorney who has studied your case can tell you precisely what will be required.
Who Will Handle my Ward’s Estate in the Event of Their Death?
If you have been appointed guardian of the estate, you will be responsible for handling insurance and investment matters, selling personal property, and other duties. At no time can the guardian’s interests conflict with those of the deceased, and all management activities must be carried out in the best interest of the ward and their estate.
Are There Alternatives to Guardianship?
If you believe a child, parent, sibling, family member, or other individual needs a guardian to communicate and make decisions on their behalf, but a court evaluated information and denied your guardianship case, you have other options.
Voluntary relationships can be established with friends and family to help with financial decisions and daily tasks. A representative payee can be appointed to manage government benefits. Additionally, disabled individuals often thrive in group homes, which can be viable alternatives to guardianship.
We suggest you consult with an attorney at May Herr & Grosh to determine if pursuing guardianship in PA is your most advisable course of action. You can be assured that we will do our utmost to ensure you have all the information you need to make informed decisions in the best interest of your family member or another incapacitated individual.