Don’t Let Time Be Your Enemy

By: Pile Law Firm, PLLC

What Are Some Signs That a Loved One Needs a Guardian?

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As your loved one ages or becomes incapacitated, you may notice signs that they can no longer make medical, financial or even day-to-day decisions on their own.

You can appoint a legal guardian to assist your family member in making these decisions, but when is the time to take this life-changing and emotional legal step?

There are signs that you can look for, such as:

  • Compromised decision-making ability – If you are to secure guardianship, you must prove incapacity. For example, you will usually have to confirm that your mother or father has difficulty making decisions about assets, health, or safety. Additionally, specific medical conditions (such as  Alzheimer’s disease or dementia) may impair them from making sound decisions.
  • Evidence of undue influence  – Your elderly parent may require help with everyday duties, and a part-time  “caretaker” may be hired to assist them. It’s sad, but some unscrupulous individuals may unduly influence your aging parent and give them access to funds or even rewrite their will, naming the caretaker as a beneficiary. 
  • Disagreement over medical care – Your aging relative or parent should have the right to make their own health care decisions. Certain medical conditions can interfere with their ability to make these choices. Your parents may refuse to do what is necessary, such as taking medication, eating, or moving into an assisted living facility. In these cases, pursuing guardianship may be a valid option. 

It is never enjoyable, but sometimes extremely necessary, to petition the Pennsylvania Orphans’ Court for guardianship of your elderly parent. However, doing so (as hard as this decision may be) would be in their best interest.

Obtaining the legal guidance of a  knowledgeable, empathetic and professional Blue Bell guardianship lawyer will be invaluable in helping you make this decision and do so as objectively as possible. It’s mandatory to remember that, when the time comes, you usually must pursue guardianship to safeguard your aging relative’s health and financial interests.

Can a Guardian Be Appointed In an Emergency Situation?

In some specific cases, yes, then can. The Pennsylvania Orphans’ Court can appoint an emergency guardian if it finds, using clear and convincing evidence, that your loved one is incapacitated and that failure to appoint a guardian immediately may harm a loved one or their estate.

The court will use similar guidelines and hearing requirements used in permanent guardianships, but a hearing will be scheduled sooner due to the emergency.

An emergency guardian of the person is appointed for 72 hours and this appointment can be extended for an additional twenty days if needed.  An emergency guardian of the estate is appointed for 30 days. The emergency guardianship is intended to allow a guardian to act quickly to protect an incapacitated person’s health, medical or financial welfare until a plenary or permanent guardianship hearing takes place.

However, the “emergency guardianship” may be limited by the court according to the specific needs of your loved one at the time. For example, if your aging parent needs emergency medical care and they are not able to independently make a decision.

In this case, you must consult with a professional guardianship lawyer to move quickly and correctly.

Are There Different Types of Guardians?

Guardianships can be done for various reasons, and several types of guardianships may follow different rules and guidelines.

For example, a “plenary guardian” of your loved one holds all the authority and may make all the necessary decisions regarding your loved one’s well being. For example, the guardian may deem it necessary to place your loved one (known as the “ward”) in a nursing home or possibly make life-or-death decisions.

Alternatively, a “limited guardian” only holds specific powers detailed in the court’s decree. Their decision-making capabilities are limited.  For example, a court can authorize a limited guardian to make decisions only about the sale of an incapacitated person’s house and exclude the guardian from making any other decisions.

If you are considering guardianship, it’s vital that you discuss the current and expected needs of the incapacitated person with your guardianship lawyer. They will advise you appropriately on what type of guardianship is needed and how far the guardian’s decision-making powers may extend.

Who May Be Appointed As a Guardian?

In Pennsylvania, the courts have specific guidelines regarding who can be appointed as a guardian. Simply, a guardian could be any qualified person (a relative or non-relative), a corporate fiduciary, a non-profit agency, a guardian support agency, or a county agency.

However, the courts will ensure that the guardian has no interests that conflict with the interests of your loved one, and if they do, they usually cannot serve as a guardian.

Being a relative of the incapacitated person, however, will commonly not be looked at as being a conflict of interest.

It’s always wise to note that Pennsylvania recognizes that every citizen (no matter how old)has unique needs and diverse levels of comprehension. Each case differs, and the court has an established system for caring for all incapacitated or impaired persons.

To the extent of their capabilities, an incapacitated or impaired individual will, to the extent possible be a part of the decision-making process.

You (as the concerned relative) and the Pennsylvania court also recognize that it’s critical to find a trusted and suitable person (or institution) to serve as your loved one’s guardian.

Also, it is important to note that at any time during their lives, a person can become incapacitated due to an accident, illness, or myriad other reasons. It’s not only the elderly that require guardians.

If any person in your household cannot function properly, or make their own decisions daily, consult with your local guardianship lawyer immediately. Don’t wait until they are harmed financially, or their health is in danger. Your competent, knowledgeable lawyer will know how to proceed to protect those you love and care for.

I Need To Know More About Guardianship; How Should I Proceed?

If your aging family member is having difficulty making decisions daily, you must discuss this dire situation with a local Blue Bell guardianship lawyer. Your aging parent or relative may desperately need this help, but always remember that some of their rights are being taken away. For this reason alone, appointing a guardian can be a sobering, stressful, and emotional decision.

Therefore, this decision as to the reach of the guardians’ powers and how to legally proceed should be thoroughly thought out.  By obtaining the professional advice of your lawyer, you can best ascertain what is best for all concerned.

Don’t wait until an accident or harm forces this decision; obtain the experienced, empathetic, and professional knowledge needed to ensure everyone’s rights are protected and served.