Pennsylvania has a vested interest in the care of those of its citizens who are unable to care for themselves due to mental incapacity. The Court will appoint a guardian for such individuals if, while competent, they had not appointed their own guardian in advance by way of a power of attorney.
This process of obtaining guardianship is often difficult, especially if the loved one is resistant to losing control over where he or she will live, or what medical treatments are necessary to ensure their wellbeing. The process is also made difficult because the pertinent laws do not allow such guardianships except under the most narrow circumstances. A person seeking guardianship must show by clear and convincing evidence that their loved one is unable to make these decisions themselves and, if left to do so, will endanger themselves or put their financial wellbeing at risk.
It is sometimes necessary to protect a love one from the caretaker they appointed when competent, or from a self-appointed caretaker. In such cases, a guardian is often appointed by the Court to take over such duties, or to oversee the caretaker in question.
Once a guardian is appointed, his or her actions are overseen by the Court. Annual reports to the Court are required to ensure that the incompetent person is being well cared for and their assets preserved, or used in their best interests. Copies of the annual reports are provided to other, interested parties – usually, family members. The Court may remove or replace a guardian, on its own or at the request of an interested party, if the appointed guardian fails to adequately protect the incompetent person and/or his financial resources.
The Court will also appoint a guardian for a minor child who has been orphaned or abandoned. In some instances, a minor child will require a guardian to oversee funds left to the child pursuant to an insurance policy or other financial instrument which names the minor child as a beneficiary. In such cases, Pennsylvania law precludes the appointment of a parent, so another qualified adult must be nominated to so serve.
The attorneys at Knight & Moskow, P.C. are very familiar with the laws governing the appointment of guardians, and have extensive experience representing clients before the Orphans’ Court. If you have a loved one who is no longer able to care for themselves, or a minor child in need of a guardian, contact our office to schedule a consultation.