November 22, 2017

Understanding Guardianship in Pennsylvania

Guardianships in Pennsylvania — An Overview

If you have a loved one who is not legally competent to make his or her own decisions, whether because of age or mental challenges, the law in Pennsylvania allows you to request that a court appoint a guardian who will make any necessary legal, financial, medical or other decisions for that person. A guardianship can be used to protect the interests of a minor (since you must be 18 years of age to enter into a legally binding contract) or an adult suffering from a debilitating mental condition.

Obtaining a Guardianship in Pennsylvania

To have a guardian appointed in Pennsylvania, you must obtain an order from a court of law. The initial petition to put a guardianship in place is filed with the Court of Common Pleas, Orphans Court Division. The person filing the petition may seek to be appointed guardian or may ask that a third party or person be named guardian. Under the statute, a guardian can be an individual, a corporate fiduciary, a nonprofit corporation or a county agency. Whenever possible, and if appropriate, the court shall consider and give preference to any guardian requested by the incapacitated person (known as the “ward”). The court must try, if possible, to appoint a guardian that does not have a conflict of interest with the ward.

Once the petition has been filed, the court will make a determination regarding whether the potential ward is “incapacitated.” Under Pennsylvania law, a person will be considered incapacitated if his or her “ability to receive and evaluate information effectively and communicate decisions in any way is impaired to such a significant extent” that he or she is “partially or totally unable to manage his financial resources or to meet essential requirements for his physical health and safety.”

The requirements of the statute are very specific. The person seeking to establish a guardianship must show:

  • What services are being currently used to meet basic requirements for the ward’s physical health and safety
  • What services are being used to improve or regain the ward’s mental abilities
  • How the ward’s financial resources are currently being managed
  • The different types of assistance the ward needs
  • The likelihood that the incapacity will lessen or change
  • Why less restrictive options to a guardianship would not be appropriate

Contact Halligan & Keaton

At Halligan & Keaton, in Media, Pennsylvania, we have more than 60 years of combined legal experience. We provide a free initial consultation to every client. To discuss your estate planning needs with an experienced lawyer, call our office at 610-566-6030 or contact us online. We will travel to your home, a long-term care facility or the hospital to meet with you.