Pennsylvania Guardianship Procedures

Pennsylvania Guardianship Procedures

By Daniel B. Evans
Copyright © 1995 Daniel B. Evans. All rights reserved.

Act 24 of 1992, signed by Governor Robert P. Casey on April 16, 1992, includes a sweeping revision of Pennsylvania’s procedures for the appointment of legal guardians for incompetents (now referred to as “incapacitated persons”).

The new act will almost certainly increase the complexity and cost of guardianship proceedings, because it includes new provisions for:

  • Notice to persons alleged to be incapacitated;

  • Right to counsel for persons alleged to be incapacitated, and a requirement that the court appoint counsel for the alleged incapacitated person or a “guardian ad litem” in “appropriate cases;”

  • Increased burden of proof and evidence required to prove incapacity; and

  • Annual reports by guardians.

Because of the likely increase in the complexity and cost of guardianship proceedings, “durable powers of attorney” should be considered by all Pennsylvanians.

A “power of attorney” is a power given by a person (called the “principal”) to another person (called the “attorney-in-fact” or “agent”) to act for the principal in one or more transactions. If the power of attorney authorized the attorney-in-fact to represent the principal under almost all circumstances, it is called a “general” power of attorney. If the power of attorney states that it is effective even if the principal is disabled or incompetent, it is called a “durable” power of attorney. A person executing a durable general power of attorney naming a husband, wife, child, or other family member as attorney-in-fact authorizes that family member to manage his or her financial and personal affairs even after incapacity, avoiding any need for any guardianship or other legal proceedings.

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