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Protective Proceedings in Pittsburgh

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When a person is unable to manage their person or property, the court may appoint an individual or professional to act on behalf of the incapacitated person. This individual or professional is known as a guardian or conservator. In Pennsylvania, guardianship or conservatorship is established when a minor requires personal care, receives a settlement, or inherits property. These may also be necessary if an adult is no longer able to analyze information required to make medical or financial decisions for themselves.

By definition, a guardian is a person appointed by the court who makes personal decisions about an incapacitated adult or a minor, such as housing, education, healthcare, and food. A conservator is a court-appointed person who administers the adult’s or minor’s assets and handles other financial matters on their behalf. In other words, a conservator handles the person’s estate, having the ability to sign contracts, manage debts, access investments accounts, and handle other duties for the minor or incapacitated person.

With these great powers comes greater responsibility, as selecting a guardian or conservator is a significant decision. To learn more, please contact our firm at (888) 458-0991!

How Protective Proceedings Work

Protective proceedings are court proceedings that function to establish guardianship and/or conservatorship. To initiative these proceedings, the person who files the petition (the “petitioner”) must personally serve the respondent, the person for whom guardianship/conservatorship is sought, with a copy of the petition and a written notice containing details about when and where the proposed protective hearing will occur. These petitions must contain the following information:

  • the name, age, residence, and post office address of the respondent
  • the names and addresses of the respondent's spouse, parent(s), and presumptive adult heirs
  • the name and address of the person or institution providing residential services to the respondent
  • the names and addresses of other persons or entities that provide services to the respondent
  • the name and address of the person or entity whom the petitioner asks to be appointed as the guardian
  • a statement that the proposed guardian has no interest that is adverse to the respondent
  • the qualifications of the proposed guardian
  • the reasons why guardianship is sought
  • a description of the functional limitations and physical and mental condition of the respondent
  • the steps being taken to find less restrictive alternatives
  • the specific areas of incapacity over which the petitioner requests that the guardian be assigned powers

From there, the respondent must appear at the protective proceeding under most circumstances. However, the respondent may also petition the court to have an expert evaluate their capacity, as this is a telltale sign of whether or not they require a guardian or conservator. That being said, the petitioner must establish by clear and convincing evidence that the respondent is incapacitated, as Pennsylvania’s guardianship statute states that “the court has the power to place total control of a person’s affairs in the hands of another. This great power creates the opportunity for great abuse.”

For these reasons, the petitioner must provide testimony from a qualified professional that establishes:

  • the nature and extent of the respondent’s incapacities and disabilities
  • the respondent’s mental, emotional, and physical condition
  • the respondent’s adaptive behavior
  • the respondent’s social skills

The petitioner must also provide evidence regarding:

  • the services used to meet the essential requirements for the respondent's physical health and safety
  • the services used to manage the respondent's financial resources
  • the services used to develop or regain the respondent’s abilities
  • the types of assistance required by the respondent
  • the reason why a less restrictive alternative to guardianship would not be appropriate
  • the probability that the extent of the person's incapacities may significantly lessen or change

After these requirements are met, the court will determine whether or not the respondent is incapacitated and needs a guardian. If the court finds that the respondent is partially incapacitated, they will appoint a limited guardian, but if the respondent is fully incapacitated, a plenary guardian will be appointed to handle the respondent’s person and estate. A limited guardian of the person generally has the following duties:

  • providing general care, maintenance, and custody of the partially incapacitated person
  • designating the partially incapacitated person's place of residence
  • assuring, as appropriate, that the partially incapacitated person receives appropriate training, education, medical and psychological services, and social and vocational opportunities
  • assisting the partially incapacitated person in the development of maximum self-reliance and independence
  • providing the required consents or approvals on behalf of the partially incapacitated person

On the other hand, a limited guardian of the estate will be told which portion of the respondent’s assets or income they can manage.

Since guardians and conservators are appointed by the court, incapacitated adults and minors — as well as their family members — tend to disagree about who should carry these serious responsibilities. Many times, incapacitated adults and minors don’t want a guardian or conservator altogether.

As such, if you or your loved one has been notified of a protective proceeding, it is in your best interests to hire our experienced Pittsburgh attorneys. Our lawyers can represent you, counsel you, and help protect your rights, freedoms, and estate. With so much at stake, you will have peace of mind knowing our attorneys are dedicated to achieving a favorable outcome in your situation.

To discuss your situation with us, contact our firm online or at (888) 458-0991!

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