Experienced Attorney Helps Clients Establish Guardianships and Conservatorships

Somerset lawyer finds solution for minors and dependent adults

The terms “guardianship” and “conservatorship” have become synonymous in Pennsylvania: they both refer to the legal authority to act for the health and welfare of another person. If you seek guardianship of another person, whether a minor, a disabled adult, or a senior with diminished capacity, you must get a court order.

As part of our estate planning practice, Matthew R. Zatko, Attorney at Law represents guardians and wards in proceedings to determine whether a guardianship is appropriate.  Guardianship hearings can be pro forma or highly contentious, especially when the proceedings concern a parent in the early stages of dementia. You can trust me to provide staunch advocacy tempered with the appropriate sensitivity for difficult circumstances.

Caring for an incapacitated adult in Pennsylvania

If you have an incapacitated adult in your life and you are concerned for their health and welfare, you need to understand your legal options. If you want to assume the authority to care for your loved one, you have three basic options:

  • Power of attorney — This is a voluntary transfer of authority from the principal (your loved one) to the agent (you). Powers of attorney can be limited to certain areas, such as finance or healthcare, and do not require a court order. However, powers of attorney do require mental capacity on the part of the principal. If your loved one is simply forgetful or frail, executing a power of attorney is not difficult. But if your loved one is losing mental capacity or, in the case of a developmentally disabled adult, has never had the legal capacity to make a contract, a power of attorney is not an option.
  • Guardian of the estate — If your loved one can care for their personal needs but cannot manage money, you can petition to be named guardian of the estate, with full control over your loved one’s finances.
  • Guardian of the person — If your loved one cannot manage on their own, you can petition for guardianship of the person, which gives you authority to make decisions for their health and welfare, including whether they should be placed in an assisted living or nursing facility.

The two types of guardianship can be combined when necessary.

If you are concerned that an older adult might be showing signs of decline, I recommend executing a power of attorney as soon as possible. The power of attorney does not have to be effective immediately. Powers of attorney can be written to “spring forth” in respond to triggering events. Having a power of attorney allows your loved one to get used to the new dynamic, so the transition to a guardianship later is much smoother.

Effectuating guardianships for minor children

When a parent or parents name a guardian for a minor child in a will, and the child is orphaned, the will does not automatically confer guardianship upon the named individual. That individual must petition the court to issue an order effectuating the guardianship.  I represent named guardians, helping them get swift approval in court.

The drug epidemic in Somerset and Johnstown is leaving many children without a parent.  Too often the first calls to my office are from grandparents who suddenly need to get emergency guardianship of their grandchildren.

Many times, grandparents have been raising a grandchild without obtaining legal custody and do not consider it a priority until the worst happens.  While the emotional and physical well being of your grandchild is your first priority, it is important to establish your legal guardianship of the child.  Only a legal guardian or custodian is able to enroll a child in school.  Medical decisions can only be made by you if you have obtained legal guardianship of the child.  There are many reasons to fight the battle to ensure your grandchild’s care. I work with many grandparents who request the court to award them emergency guardianship.  I also work with aunts and uncles who need to obtain custody.

Talk to an experienced attorney about a guardianship for your loved one

If your loved ones lack the capacity to care for themselves, you must get legal authority to act on their behalf.  Matthew R. Zatko, Attorney at Law is prepared to help you take the decisive steps you need to protect those you love. Call today at 814-483-7075 or contact me online to schedule a consultation.