When a loved one needs assistance, it may be appropriate to seek a guardianship. At Luschas, Naparsteck & Crane, LLP, we are experienced guardianship attorneys. Our team can help you evaluate your loved one’s situation and proceed in the best way.
If you believe a guardianship may be right for a family member, or if you want to talk about your loved one’s situation, contact our guardianship attorney team for a confidential review of your case.
How Our Guardianship Attorneys Can Help
The Luschas, Naparsteck & Crane, LLP guardianship attorneys can help you establish, manage, change or end a guardianship.
Our guardianship attorneys represent you through the entire process. It’s our goal to make the process as efficient as possible. Here are some of the things we do:
- Evaluating whether a guardianship is appropriate for the situation
- Looking at other options to see the guardianship is the best plan
- Preparing legal documents
- Creating supporting documents including needed medical statements
- Following legal procedure like serving documents
- Representation at your hearing
- Preparing so you know what to expect at court
- Explaining what a guardianship entails and what documentation is necessary once a guardianship is complete
- Evaluating an existing guardianship, petitioning the court if changes are needed
Seeking a guardianship order is a significant undertaking. It is a legal process, and there are required forms, supporting documents and legal procedure. Our attorneys provide experienced representation to help you achieve your goals correctly and efficiently.
Guardianships in Pennsylvania
What is a guardianship?
A guardianship is a court order that gives a person the authority to act on behalf of an incapacitated person. When a person cannot make their own decisions because of age or mental incapacity, a guardianship allows someone else to act on their behalf.
What does a guardianship do?
There are three major areas covered by a guardianship – medical decisions, financial management and personal decisions. A Guardian of the Estate oversees financial decisions. A Guardian of the Person makes medical and personal decisions. A full guardianship, or plenary guardianship, gives the guardian authority over all affairs.
A Limited Guardianship authorizes only specific powers. Courts most often appoint guardians with complete authority, as limited guardianships can be difficult to interpret and oversee.
Is a guardianship automatic?
Guardianships are not automatic in Pennsylvania.
Many people assume that when someone becomes disabled, their next of kin take over as guardian. However, that’s not the case. There must be a formal court order that recognizes the need for the guardian and makes an appointment. When someone is 18 or older, it is presumed that the person can act on their own behalf unless there is a court order stating otherwise. It’s necessary to seek the appropriate court order to act on behalf of the incapacitated individual.
What happens at a guardianship hearing?
When everyone involved agrees, and the paperwork is in order, a guardianship hearing is straightforward. The court may take brief testimony, review documents and issue the order. It’s important to work with an attorney in advance of the hearing to ensure that documents are complete. The court can’t issue the order if service isn’t completed or if medical documents are missing.
Some ways that a guardianship hearing may be contested are disagreements about:
- Whether someone is in need of a guardian
- Who should be the guardian
- What rights the guardian should have
- If any alternatives are appropriate instead
- Disagreements with actions the guardian has taken
- Termination of a guardianship
- Someone refusing to be named guardian
- The person not wanting a guardian
As part of our representation, our lawyers identify these issues in advance and prepare the necessary evidence to present to the court.
Are there alternatives to guardianships?
A guardianship is one option for a person who needs assistance. It may not be the only option or the best option. In addition, there are multiple types of guardianships that can be ordered.
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives a named person the authority to act. However, the person themselves must have the capacity to create the Power of Attorney before they have a disability. If you have concerns about a loved one, it’s best to talk to us as soon as possible, so we can execute a Power of Attorney, if appropriate.
In addition, a Limited Guardianship may be appropriate. We can help you explore all the options and the best situation for your family member.
What are the steps involved in a guardianship proceeding?
Families often want to know what to expect in a guardianship proceeding. Here is the general process of seeking a guardianship in Pennsylvania:
- Preparing documents – There must be a petition for guardianship. It gives detailed information about the situation and the nature of the disability. There must be a physician or psychologist statement.
- Filing documents – A guardianship petition is filed in the Court of Common Pleas – the local county court.
- Giving notice – Interested parties, including the person who is the subject of the petition, must receive notice of the proceedings.
- Hearing – The court holds a short hearing. There is typically brief testimony when the case is uncontested.
- Issuing an order – If the court is satisfied with the petition, it issues an order of guardianship.
- Inventory and reporting – Once the guardianship exists, the guardian must file a report of personal status and financial affairs. They must update the report annually for the term of the guardianship.
The medical professional usually doesn’t need to attend court. If the incapacitated individual can’t attend court, their presence may not be necessary. If the matter is contested, the court holds an evidentiary hearing before making a decision.
Why Choose Luschas, Naparsteck & Crane, LLP?
Work with the law firm that has 40 years of experience helping individuals and families. We’re proud of our reputation helping people access the legal system with the representation they need. You can expect services that are customized to your case. We have an open door policy, and we explain the process at each step.