Roles of a legal guardian in Pennsylvania
Family members in Pennsylvania use guardianships to ensure that their loved ones are well taken care of. If you are given this role, you would need to understand your responsibilities.
Understanding a legal guardian in Pennsylvania
Under Article I, Section 28 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, all individuals have a natural right to “enjoy and defend life and liberty.” In some cases, an individual may be unable to do so for themselves due to incapacity. Incapacity can result from developmental disabilities, mental illness, physical illness, substance abuse issues or old age. When this occurs, the law provides for the appointment of a legal guardian.
A legal guardian is an individual appointed by a court to make decisions on behalf of another person who cannot do so for themselves. The powers and duties of a legal guardian are set forth in 20 Pa.C.S.A. 5301 et seq., also known as the Pennsylvania Guardianship Law.
Under the law, a legal guardian has the power to make decisions about the following areas of an incapacitated person’s life:
- Medical care
- Financial management and property interests
A legal guardian does not have the power to make decisions about an individual’s right to vote, marry, or divorce. These rights can only be taken away by a court order.
The process of becoming a legal guardian in Pennsylvania
The first step to becoming a legal guardian is to file a petition with the court. The petition must be filed in the county where the proposed ward resides.
A hearing will then be scheduled, where the petitioner must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the proposed ward is incapacitated and that guardianship is necessary. If the court is convinced, it will issue an order appointing a legal guardian.
It is important to note that a legal guardian is not the same as a conservator. A conservator is someone appointed by a court to manage the financial affairs of an incapacitated person. In Pennsylvania, a conservator can be appointed for an individual unable to manage their own finances or property due to incapacity.