Legal Guardianship In Pennsylvania

When Pennsylvania residents reach the age of 18, they acquire the right to make decisions on their own behalf. However, if the court judges an individual to be incapacitated and unable to make decisions for themselves, the court will appoint a guardian if the individual is not competent to sign a power of attorney agreement.

Many people believe that the parents of an incapacitated child who turns 18 and the adult children of incapacitated seniors automatically become guardians due to being next of kin – this is not true. Legal guardianship can only be granted by the court. A guardian is appointed to make personal decisions for the incapacitated. The court may also appoint a conservator to make financial decisions for the incapacitated.

Different Types Of Guardian Arrangements

Every estate planning client we work with has a unique life story and needs. We work closely with our clients to make sure we understand their situation and help them decide which arrangement is best for them:

Guardianship of minors – When a child’s parent is mentally and physically able to care for their child, the parent is usually considered the legal guardian. But in situations where a parent dies or is unable to care for the child due to factors such as a debilitating illness or incarceration, a guardian will be appointed. If the parent is able to suggest a guardian, that choice becomes the favored selection of the court, but is not the automatically selected.

Guardianship of a person – Guardianship of the person is appointed when an individual is disabled to the point where they cannot take care of themselves or make personal decisions for themselves. This type of guardianship grants responsibility for making most day-to-day decisions affecting the disabled person. This type of guardianship does limit the guardian’s authority to make decisions concerning reproductive issues, consent to marriage or divorce, and consent for certain types of medical procedures.

Limited guardianship – As the name implies, limited guardianships grant decision-making power based on the abilities of the person who needs the guardian. This type of guardianship varies widely from person to person. In each case, the court draws up a unique plan specific to the needs of the individual.

Guardianship of the estate – This type of guardianship specifically addresses making financial decisions. A guardianship of the estate is often granted for elderly people who begin to show signs of dementia or other neurological disorders.

Contact Haberstroh, Sullivan & George, LLP To Discuss Your Options

If you are concerned about the abilities of yourself or a loved one to make life decisions, we can help you through the process of establishing a guardian. Fill out our online contact form or call our Altoona office at 814-201-6263 or our Martinsburg office at 814-201-6838.