Looking after an elderly parent can often feel like a full-time job, especially when it becomes clear that they need nearly full-time care.
In some cases, that means your mom or dad moving into a nursing home. In other cases, it means becoming – or having someone else named – your parent’s full-time guardian.
In this blog post, we’ll look at what it means to obtain guardianship in PA.
Why will a court appoint a guardian?
When an illness, disability or injury makes it hard – or impossible – for a person to make decisions about their medical care, living situation or finances, a court can determine that they are incapacitated.
Some examples of incapacitation include:
- A person with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
- A person in a coma
- A person who is mentally challenged
- A person who has suffered a stroke or some sort of brain injury
To grant guardianship in PA, a judge needs to hold a hearing to determine whether someone is incapacitated.
State law defines an incapacitated person as an adult “whose ability to receive and evaluate information effectively and communicate decisions in any way is impaired to such a significant extent that he is partially or totally unable to manage his financial resources or to meet essential requirements for his physical health and safety.”
Guardianship vs. power of attorney
While having a durable power of attorney is always a good idea, it’s not something that can be set up once a person has been declared incapacitated.
Once someone becomes so incapacitated that they’d need a guardian or conservator, they can’t legally create a power of attorney. A court will nullify any power of attorney made by an incapacitated person.
If the incapacitated person created the power of attorney while they were still in good health, the agent they named in that document has the power to make financial or health care decisions.
However, if the person created a power of attorney to handle one area of their lives – say, a healthcare power of attorney – the court can name someone as a guardian or conservator to handle decisions not provided for in the power of attorney.
Who will the court appoint as guardian?
Guardianship in PA begins with the court looking for someone to fill the role. Their first choice is typically a close family member: a spouse, partner, or child.
If there are no options within the immediate family, the court will consider close friends or other relatives. Failing that, the court can appoint a professional guardian.
Becoming a guardian means that you can ensure your loved one gets the care and protection they need at a time when they can’t care for themselves.
However, a guardianship in PA is a pretty significant responsibility. You’re considered an officer of the court and will have to make regular reports to the judge. It’s a role you can expect to play for some time. In most cases, it will last as long as the rest of the incapacitated person’s life.
Again, it’s a big job, but one you don’t need to take on by yourself. If you and your loved ones are struggling with how to best take care of an older family member who can no longer make decisions on their own, turn to Newman Elder Law.
We are very knowledgeable about guardianships in PA and can work with your family to ensure that your parents’ interests are protected. Contact us today to learn more.