Many residents of Pittsburgh may find themselves in the situation where they have to provide care and other support to an adult relative who, for whatever reason, cannot care for him or herself.

In some cases, a Pennsylvanian may simply be in the best position to care for an aging parent or a relative who is suffering from a medical condition or an injury. In other situations, a parent may have a disabled child who has reached the age of majority but will need ongoing assistance in order to function or even to survive. There must be a finding of “incapacity” for this to occur.  This means that by medical evidence, the person who is incapacitated cannot make decisions or care for themselves alone.

While they are not always necessary, in many cases, the caregiver will need to go to a Pennsylvania court and obtain what the law calls a guardianship. Guardianships are complicated legal proceedings which can sometimes get contentious. This only happens if family members or other third parties think they can do a better job than the person seeking the guardianship. The basic idea is that a court will issue orders giving another person the authority to make decisions on behalf of someone who cannot do so for themself.

Pennsylvania recognizes two types of guardianships, although a court can grant the same person both types of guardianship over the same incapacitated person and at the same time.

A guardianship of the estate gives the guardian power to make financial decision on another person’s behalf.

A guardianship of the person allows the guardian to make personal and medical decisions on an incapacitated person’s behalf, similar to the type of decisions that a parent routinely makes for his or her children.

One big difference between parents and guardians is that the court specifically determines what decisions a guardian may and may not make. The Court also requires the Guardian to file annual reports as to how the money is being spent and what decisions the Guardian has made for the incapacitated person.

In order to obtain a guardianship, the concerned relative must first demonstrate that their loved truly is incapacitated and, thus, needs a guardian. This has to be done by a medical expert who would need to submit a deposition with regards to the Incapacitated Person’s injury and illness.  The relative must also prove he or she is responsible and can handle the important role a guardian plays in the life of a protected person. The Court would do an investigation as to the proposed Guardian’s background, criminal history and that the proposed Guardian is judgment proof and has no current judgments or lawsuits against them.

This process can be life saving for the Incapacitated Person and is a great way for loved ones to be cared for without the threat of designated persons taking advantage of them. Guardianship in the law is an area that offers real remedies and real results of those individuals less fortunate.