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Understanding Guardianships in Pennsylvania: A Comprehensive Guide for Families

Town Law Publishing April 1, 2023

Guardianships play an essential role in protecting the rights and well-being of individuals who may not be able to care for themselves, such as minors or incapacitated adults. In Pennsylvania, the guardianship process can be complex and emotionally challenging for families. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the different types of guardianships, the legal process involved, and the responsibilities of a guardian in the state of Pennsylvania.

Types of Guardianships in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania recognizes two primary types of guardianships: guardianship of the person and guardianship of the estate.

  • Guardianship of the Person: This type of guardianship pertains to the care, custody, and control of an individual, ensuring their well-being and making decisions about their personal, medical, and social needs.

  • Guardianship of the Estate: This guardianship deals with the management of an individual's financial affairs, such as paying bills, managing assets, and making financial decisions on their behalf.

    Establishing Guardianship in Pennsylvania

The process of establishing guardianship in Pennsylvania involves several steps, including:

  • Filing a petition: A petitioner, typically a family member or close friend, files a petition with the Orphans' Court in the county where the individual in question resides.

  • Medical examination: The alleged incapacitated person will undergo a medical examination by a qualified professional to determine their capacity to make decisions.

  • Legal representation: The alleged incapacitated person is entitled to legal representation, and if they cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one for them.

  • Court hearing: A hearing will be held before a judge or a court-appointed master, during which evidence and testimony are presented to determine if a guardianship is necessary.

  • Appointment of guardian: If the court determines that guardianship is appropriate, it will appoint a suitable guardian, considering factors such as the individual's preferences, family relationships, and the potential guardian's qualifications.

    Responsibilities of a Guardian in Pennsylvania

Guardians have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the person they represent. Responsibilities of a guardian include:

  • Making decisions about the individual's personal, medical, and social needs

  • Ensuring the individual's living conditions are safe and comfortable

  • Managing financial affairs and making prudent investment decisions

  • Regularly reporting to the court about the individual's well-being and the management of their estate

  1. Terminating or Modifying a Guardianship

Guardianships in Pennsylvania can be terminated or modified under certain circumstances, such as when the individual regains capacity, a less restrictive alternative becomes available, or the guardian is no longer able to fulfill their duties.

Guardianships in Pennsylvania play a crucial role in safeguarding the rights and welfare of vulnerable individuals. Understanding the process, types of guardianships, and the responsibilities of a guardian can help families make informed decisions about the care and protection of their loved ones. If you are considering guardianship for a family member, it's essential to consult with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the legal process and ensure the best interests of your loved one are upheld.