Guardianships

The attorneys in the Estate and Trust Litigation Department at MacElree Harvey also handle Guardianship matters in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey before the Pennsylvania Orphans’ Court Divisions of the Court of Common Pleas, the Delaware Chancery Court and the New Jersey Superior Court, Chancery Division. Guardianships entail both matters involving children, and matters involving incapacitated persons.

Matters involving Guardianships for children usually entail a close relative, sibling or friend consenting to being the guardian for a child for various reasons. Typically, it is because the mother and father are not available, either temporarily or permanently. A Guardianship allows the relative or friend to register the child in their school district, obtain Federal and State aid and provide a stable home for the child. The procedure is not too difficult, but it does involve the giving of notice to all next-of-kin. Usually there is a Hearing and the Court will award Guardianship unless it is convinced that it would not be in the best interests of the child to do so.

Guardianships for adult incapacitated persons is a much more complex area of the law. The hearings themselves involve two basic areas: the finding of incapacity and the appointment of a Guardian. In order for the person to be found incapacitated, there is need for expert testimony, usually a doctor, psychologist or professional of comparable education and expertise. The testimony of the expert is either entered through a witness deposition, or by live testimony. The second, and often more difficult, problem is that of appointing a Guardian of the Person and a Guardian of the Estate. The Guardian of the Person handles all of the alleged incapacitated person’s personal care and health issues. The Guardian of the Estate, on the other hand, handles all of the financial affairs of the alleged incapacitated person.

Filing a Petition for Guardianship has often been used in situations where a Power of Attorney is abusing his or her obligations and, sometimes, is mishandling the funds for their own personal gain. The Guardianship proceeding puts the Court in the middle of these disputes and, if successful, the Petitioner for the Guardianship can gain control of the assets, with the Court overseeing the handling of the assets and the care. Guardians, once appointed, must file an Inventory and must file an Annual Report. Those reports are audited by the Court system, with a considerable amount of diligence.

Members of our Estate and Trust Litigation Group have backgrounds in various disciplines, including psychology, law and accounting. Many of our members have been named as Super Lawyers in Philadelphia Magazine and Top Lawyers in Main Line Today. We understand the sensitivity of the situation of a loved one in need of care and guidance.

Finally, the Orphans’ Court of Chester County, Pennsylvania has a Mediation Program. This has been an effective tool to avoid excess legal costs by having the family meet and resolve their issues, resulting in a stipulated agreement as formally entered into as an Order of the Court for enforcement and oversight. John F. McKenna, our Chairman of the Estate and Trust Litigation Department is a Court-Approved Guardian.

If you would like to schedule a consultation, please call the firm at 610.436.0100 or submit the contact request form.