THE GUARDIANSHIP PROCESS
In Pennsylvania, when an individual reaches the age of 18, regardless of any functional limitations or disabilities, she has the legal right to make decisions on her own behalf. Only a court, after hearing evidence, may declare an individual to be totally or partially incapacitated and appoint a qualified guardian to make decisions for her.
Making the decision to file for guardianship of your disabled relative is a hard choice we fully understand. The realization of unmastered goals and objectives at the conclusion of an educational career can be an emotional benchmark met with uncertainty about your relative’s future lifestyle. Realizing that guardianship may be inconsistent with the habilitative goal of maximizing a person’s independence, our experienced staff in the field of special education allows us to guide you through this multi-step process.
We recognize that the majority of individuals with disabilities live in the community with the assistance of their families or a system of support services without the need for guardians. Still, there is a small percentage of individuals with limited or impaired mental functioning that require the appointment of a guardian to protect the individual’s safety and well-being.
When you call our office to make an appointment to discuss guardianship, our friendly staff will gather intake information and send you an appointment confirmation letter which contains the documents you will need for your initial appointment.
Before initiating a guardianship proceeding, we explore viable alternatives with you designed to avoid a declaration of incapacity. Special needs trusts, powers of attorney and the quality of the familial support system available to your disabled relative are explored during your initial appointment.
Once a determination has been made that no other less restrictive alternatives exist to protect your disabled relative, a detailed plan of action is then designed to gather the evidence needed to proceed with a guardianship petition. At the conclusion of your initial appointment with the attorney, you will be fully informed on what documents, evidence, professional support and witnesses will be needed to proceed.
After your initial appointment, we send you a guardianship preparation letter outlining the process and items still needed to proceed with your guardianship petition. Throughout this process, we encourage communication by way of e-mail or calls to answer any questions you may have.