Blue Bell Guardianship Lawyer Guiding Clients Through the Process of Obtaining a Guardianship
Serving Philadelphia, Chester, Lehigh, Montgomery, Delaware And Bucks Counties
Sometimes, when a loved one is aging and becomes mentally incapacitated or otherwise becomes disabled and requires care, families must take important steps to ensure that person’s well-being and financial affairs are taken care of. Learn how guardianships work in Pennsylvania and why you should consider working with an attorney if you are planning to obtain guardianship for your relative.
What Is a Guardianship in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, guardianship allows a person to take over the authority of making important decisions and managing the finances of another person who has been deemed mentally incapacitated to handle his or her own affairs. The guardian can be a family member, a professional, or an entity such as a county agency, nonprofit corporation, or guardianship support agency.
Guardians are appointed through a court order and have the authority to make decisions regarding the incapacitated person’s financial, healthcare, and personal matters. The state considers a person to be incapacitated when he or she is unable to effectively evaluate information and make decisions or is demonstrating significant impairment in this area.
Why Would a Person Need a Guardian?
In Pennsylvania, any person over the age of 18 is assumed to be capable of making decisions and managing their own personal and financial affairs. However, if a person’s mental capacities are impaired due to age-related conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, or the person becomes permanently disabled or develops a health problem that hinders their ability to understand information and communicate decisions effectively, that person may no longer be able to care for themselves, make medical decisions or manage their finances.
When that happens, guardianship may be necessary. A court can determine if an individual is really incapacitated and appoint a guardian to handle that person’s affairs. The guardian’s role is to look after the best interests of the incapacitated person, ensuring he or she has a quality standard of life and that his or her assets are properly managed.
What Are the Steps to Obtaining a Guardianship?
In order to obtain the guardianship of a loved one, the first step is to file a petition with the probate court explaining why you think your loved one would need a guardian appointed. You should also plan to allow for at least 20 days of notice to any and all interested parties so that they can express their objections ahead of the court hearing.
The probate court will then receive your petition and schedule a date for a hearing. The hearing is an opportunity for the judge to analyze the evidence you present documenting your relative’s level of incapacitation and supporting the need for a guardianship, including evidence obtained from a medical professional along with their recommendation for a guardianship. Other interested parties may also bring forward evidence. If the court agrees, you may ask the judge to appoint you as the guardian, or you may recommend another party to serve as a guardian for your family member.
What Is a Limited Guardianship?
In some cases, the court may find that the person you would like to place under a guardianship is only partially incapacitated and is still capable of making certain decisions in spite of needing help in other areas. The court may then appoint someone as a limited guardian and specify exactly what that limited guardian can or cannot do for the incapacitated person and may determine which portion of the person’s income or assets are subject to the powers of the guardian.
In a limited guardianship, the person under protection still has the legal rights to make their own decisions in all areas except for those in which the court has given the guardian authority to take over the decision-making role. The court may allow several types of powers to a limited guardian, including but not limited to providing general care and having custody of the incapacitated person, and deciding where this person shall live; making sure the incapacitated person has access to training, education, medical, and psychological services as applicable, and has access to social and/or vocational opportunities; helping the incapacitated person develop self-reliance and become as independent as possible, and provide necessary consents and authorizations on behalf of the incapacitated person.
Why Should You Work With a Guardianship Attorney?
Obtaining a guardianship is not always a straightforward process, as courts are often hesitant to approve guardianship due to its restrictive nature, essentially removing some or all the decision-making power of an individual. Guardianship cases must be accompanied by strong evidence documenting the degree of incapacitation of the individual and supporting the argument that a guardianship would be indeed in the best interests of the incapacitated person and that no other feasible options are available.
Trying to obtain a guardianship without the help of a seasoned guardianship attorney is rather complicated, and your chances of being successful may be slim. By working with a knowledgeable guardianship attorney, you can be more confident you will be taking the right steps to build a strong case and get your incapacitated loved one the help and protection he or she needs.
At the Pile Law Firm, PLLC, Attorney E. Nego Pile has helped many families in Blue Bell, PA, and surrounding areas to successfully obtain guardianships for their loved ones. Our firm understands the challenges that come with caring for an incapacitated person, including the many legal complications that family caretakers may encounter when trying to manage that person’s affairs without a power of attorney. If you would like to discuss whether guardianship is the right option for your family, contact the Pile Law Firm, PLLC at 610-718-6368.