Changes to Pennsylvania’s guardianship law go into effect June 1, 2019. To understand what’s happening, it’s first important to understand how guardianship proceedings work in Pennsylvania.
What is guardianship and how might it affect my family?
Guardianship refers to a legal process that occurs when an individual is declared incapacitated – that is, he or she is incapable of effectively receiving and evaluating information. Once deemed incapacitated, it is too late for this individual to execute a power of attorney. Therefore, if he or she did not sign a power of attorney before becoming incapacitated, then the individual must now have a decision-maker assigned to him or her.
There are two types of decision-makers in these instances:
- Guardian of the estate, who handles finances
- Guardian of the person, who handles medical and residential decisions
To start the guardianship process, a petition must be filed with the Orphans’ Court in the county in which the individual resides or is domiciled.
A hearing then follows, at which point those familiar with the alleged incapacitated person, including a medical professional, provide testimony to confirm or deny the individual’s incapacity. Ultimately, a judge will rule on both the individual’s capacity and who is fit to serve as the individual’s guardian. Often when multiple parties vie to serve, the judge may decide that the appointment of a professional guardian — that is, someone who is unrelated to the individual — is appropriate.
Once a guardian is appointed, the individual or professional must provide an initial inventory and then annual reports to the court to document how money has been used (accounting for both income and expenditures) and any changes in medical / residential status.
What are the changes within the law?
Some of the changes to the law include:
- Requires a more detailed and extensive petition for guardianship
- Mandates background checks for potential guardians and increased inquiries into his or her guardianship training
- Allows for export reports in lieu of in person expert testimony from medical professionals
- Broadens the class of interested parties who may get involved or intervene in guardianship proceedings
- Utilizes an online tracking system where guardians must file inventories and reports
- Updated annual report forms and increased monitoring of guardianships have already taken effect
If you are considering petitioning for guardianship, Stock and Leader’s Estate Planning team can assist you in filing the petition, preparing for the hearing and navigating these recent changes. Contact us today.