May 27, 2017

Media, PA, Legal Guardianship Attorneys

Help with Guardianship Proceedings

There’s an old saying: “A stitch in time, saves nine.” If your elder parent, sibling, aunt or uncle is showing signs of mental impairment or extreme forgetfulness, taking gentle action now by asking them to assign you power of attorney, establishing a trust and increasing family support may save both money and heartache in the days ahead.

It’s not always possible, however, to identify the signs of trouble around the corner. A major stroke, a catastrophic injury or the sudden onset of mental illness can rob your loved one of the ability to make informed decisions and to enter into contracts. In such situations, your loved one needs the services of a “full” or “plenary” guardian to make decisions on his or her behalf.

It’s heartbreaking to have to admit that a loved one is no longer of sound mind and able to care for themselves. For more than 40 years, the Pennsylvania legal guardianship attorneys at Halligan & Keaton have helped families through the difficulties of incapacity. We can help your family with powers of attorney, or guardianship proceedings.

“But I’m her (child/parent). Can’t I already make decisions for her?”

Many times people assume that because they are the next of kin, they can automatically make decisions on behalf of an incapacitated relative, especially their own child. The truth is, once a child — even a severely disabled child — turns 18, the law assumes that child is now competent to make decisions. If that is not the case, you MUST go through the formal process of a guardianship proceeding in order to be named the child’s legal guardian.

HIPPA and Informed Consent

Hospitals are leery of providing medical care to people who lack the ability to give informed consent. The ability to give consent for medical care is one important reason to seek legal guardianship. Another reason is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) requirement for medical information security. HIPPA paperwork must be in place to ensure you can speak with your loved one’s medical providers.

The Guardianship Process

The process of obtaining a guardianship decree begins with filing a petition in the Court of Common Pleas. The petition details the financial and personal situation of your loved one, and the nature of his or her disability. The court will also require a written statement from a medical or psychological specialist who is familiar with your family member. The statement must describe the nature of the disability and the reasons why a guardianship is necessary.

After the petition for guardianship is filed, the court will schedule a hearing date and order that notice be given to all next of kin. The court also requires that a lawyer provide the alleged incapacitated person with a copy of the petition and review it with that person in such a way that he or she is most likely to understand it.

The court hearing itself may be relatively brief if the case is uncontested (everyone agrees to the guardianship). In most cases the medical or psychological professional does not need to attend because a written statement has already been provided. Depending on the status of the alleged incapacitated person, the medical or psychological professional may or may not recommend that he/she be present for the hearing.

If guardianship is approved, the guardian must provide the court with a report about the financial and personal status of the incapacitated person within 90 days. After this first report, the same information must be provided to the court annually.

Contact a Pennsylvania Guardianship Lawyer

Learn more about the process of being named as a guardian for your loved one. Contact our Media, Pennsylvania, guardianship lawyers to schedule a free initial consultation, or call 610-566-6030.

Halligan & Keaton are located in Media, PA and serve Delaware County, Montgomery County and Chester County including the communities of Media, Springfield, Havertown, West Chester, Ardmore, Upper Darby, Blue Bell, Plymouth Meeting, King of Prussia and Lansdowne.