If a person over the age of 18 is unable to care for himself or herself, it may be necessary for family members to have a Pennsylvania court appoint a legal guardian. Any person with a vested interest in the well-being of the incapacitated person can seek being appointed as guardian.
Guardians are often sought in cases of mentally or physically disabled adults, the elderly, or people suffering from certain illnesses. In order to successfully be named a person’s legal guardian, you will have to demonstrate to the court that no other alternative exists.
West Chester Guardianship Lawyer
If you are attempting to become the legal guardian of a family member or some other loved one, you will want to work with an experienced Pennsylvania family law attorney. Ciccarelli Law Offices assists clients with legal estate matters all over Chester County, including Phoenixville, West Chester, Easttown, Coatesville, West Goshen, Downingtown, West Caln, and Kennett Square.
Our firm understands the application requirements and filing procedures involved in these cases, and we can work to expedite cases in emergency situations. Let us review your case by calling (877) 529-2422 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
Chester County Guardianship Information Center
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Types of Guardianship in Pennsylvania
In these types of cases, the person who the court has determined lacks the mental or physical ability to take care of himself or herself is referred to as the “ward.” The guardian is the person who the court approves to handle personal matters for the ward. Specific types of guardianship include:
- Plenary Guardian — A person who is approved as both the guardian of the person and the guardian of the estate of the ward, meaning he or she can handle health and financial matters.
- Limited Guardian — A person whose powers are typically limited by the court to being either guardian of the person or guardian of the estate of the ward.
- Emergency Guardian — A person whose powers are typically limited to the purposes of immediate medical care for a limited amount of time.
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Powers Established in Chester County Guardianship
A limited guardian only has powers that are specifically set forth in the decree of the court. The powers of a plenary guardian, however, may include the authority to:
- Buy and sell assets, investments and real estate
- Decide how the ward’s income, savings, or other assets will be used, invested, and managed
- Decide where the ward will live
- Determine health care treatment that the ward will receive
- Handle ward’s other financial affairs, including taxes and public benefits
- Operate or incorporate a business that is part of the estate
- Pay the ward’s debts and other legal obligations
- Preserve property of the estate
- Settle controversies (with court approval)
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Required Information in Pennsylvania Guardianship Petition
Under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute Title 20 Chapter 55 § 5511, the petition of a prospective guardian needs to include the following information:
- Name, age, residence and post office address of the alleged incapacitated person
- Names and addresses of the spouse, parents and presumptive adult heirs of the alleged incapacitated person
- Name and address of the person or institution providing residential services to the alleged incapacitated person
- Names and addresses of other service providers
- Name and address of the person or entity whom petitioner asks to be appointed guardian
- An averment that the proposed guardian has no interest adverse to the alleged incapacitated person
- Reasons why guardianship is sought
- A description of the functional limitations and physical and mental condition of the alleged incapacitated person
- The steps taken to find less restrictive alternatives
- The specific areas of incapacity over which it is requested that the guardian be assigned powers and the qualifications of the proposed guardian
- The gross value of the estate and net income from all sources to the extent known, if a limited or plenary guardian of the estate is sought
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Chester County Guardianship vs. Power of Attorney
Many people ask whether they need to appoint a guardian or craft a power of attorney. These are very different legal documents, with some of the key difference being:
- Authority — A guardian typically has more control than the agent appointed by a power of attorney
- Court Oversight — A court is required to select a guardian, approve his or her actions, and revoke his or her authority, but these powers often rest with the principal (the person who grants the agent permission to act on his or her behalf) and there is no court oversight in a power of attorney
- Mental Capacity — The ward needs to be incapacitated in order to establish a guardian, but the principal needs to have capacity in order to create a power of attorney
- Third Parties — Certain third parties, like banks, are not required to allow the agent in a power of attorney to conduct business for the principal, but third parties are bound by the court orders what authorize the guardian to act on behalf of the ward
- Liability — The agent in a power of attorney can be personally liable if he or she fails to act in the best interests of the principal, but the guardian rarely risks any personal liability unless his or her actions are in blatant disregard of his or her duties
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Find A Guardianship Lawyer in West Chester
Whether you are seeking to become the temporary or permanent guardian for a loved one, a knowledgeable Pennsylvania family law attorney can help you navigate through the complexities of these cases. Ciccarelli Law Offices represents residents all over Chester County as well as Lancaster County, Philadelphia County, Montgomery County, and Delaware County.
Our firm can answer all of your estate planning questions and we will work to ensure that you get the legal authority you are seeking. Call (877) 529-2422 today to have us review your case during a free consultation.