Pennsylvania Guardianship Lawyer
Helping Select and Appoint a Legal Guardian
Aging is a part of life, and thanks to the tremendous advances in technology and modern medicine, Americans are living longer than ever. That means more of us will need to plan for how to handle our elderly parents as they reach old age and begin to lose the ability to care for themselves.
Understandably, talking about these issues can be difficult for many families, but dealing with tough questions early can be the best way to avoid unwanted outcomes that negatively impact your elderly relatives and the rest of your family.
Advance Care Planning Can Solve Many Issues
There are a number of legal issues that Central Pennsylvania families need to consider when caring for their elderly relatives. Being prepared is especially important, because aging seniors often suffer from diminished mental faculties, making it difficult for them to participate in decision-making regarding their care.
Primary concerns are: how to pay for long-term care, making arrangements for funerals and burials, and how to distribute wealth and assets after the loved one is gone. For the senior’s day-to-day living, concerns include having adequate access to health care and, when necessary, a daily caregiver.
Many of these issues can be preemptively solved by having early discussions and drawing up documents that clearly spell out how a person wants to handle end-of-life and emergency care decisions. A person can even designate who he or she wants to have guardianship and power of attorney ahead of time.
The simple fact of the matter is that health care providers and other medical personnel may not be able to ask a person how he wishes to be cared for during an emergency. That is why it is important to have your wishes documented beforehand, for instance, in a living will. This kind of advance care planning helps preempt many of the questions, conflicts, and disputes that happen when family members don’t agree on the treatment or financial decisions.
What Is a Living Will?
A living will is a written statement that details a person's desires regarding medical treatment in circumstances in which he or she is no longer able to express informed consent. Many people find it easier to make these kinds of decisions about future care after discussing them with family, clergy members, health care providers, and an attorney. Important discussions should be had about when to forgo treatment, when to end life support, and other challenging emotional issues.
Unfortunately, not all seniors have living wills or someone who they have designated as having power of attorney. This means that if your loved one reaches a point when he or she is no longer able to competently make decisions about finances and medical care, it will be necessary to petition to have your relative declared incompetent.
What Does a Legal Guardian Do?
This sounds very harsh, but the truth is it may be necessary to ensure that your aging relative has the care he or she deserves. This process, known as a conservatorship, involves a judge transferring the responsibility for managing finances, medical decisions, and living arrangements to a guardian who will take responsibility for all of these decisions.
As a court-appointed guardian, you are required to act with the best interests of the individual in mind
In order to grant a conservatorship, a Pennsylvania judge will need to hear evidence that the person lacks the mental capacity to make informed decisions and may be in danger of causing harm to him or herself. The judgment is not automatic, and the elderly person has the right to an attorney who will represent him or her and may challenge the appointment of the guardian.
A guardian’s responsibilities with respect to his or her ward may include the following:
- Deciding where the ward will reside
- Ensuring the ward’s residence is maintained
- Signing off on any necessary or recommended medical care
- Managing the ward’s finances and investments
- Releasing confidential information as necessary
- Making decisions regarding end-of-life questions
- Making reports to the court on the ward’s status as required
At the Law Offices of Kreisher & Gregorowicz, we understand how difficult it can be when it comes to making the best decisions for our aging loved ones. We have the experience and empathy to assist you and your family in making end-of-life plans and will do everything possible to provide you with comfort and peace of mind. Please call our Bloomsburg elder law lawyers at (570) 784-5211 today to schedule a free and comprehensive consultation.