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Orphans' Court - Guardianship and authorizing expenditures in Pittsburgh

Guardianship may be necessary for a loved one who is no longer able to care for himself or herself, even though the decision to seek guardianship can be difficult. For Pittsburgh residents who are faced with this complex issue, it is important to understand how guardianship functions in the Orphans' Court and what must be done by the Guardian of the Estate. One of the most common issues that leads to confusion is how expenditures on behalf of the ward are handled and what is authorized.

After a Guardian of the Estate has been appointed by the Orphans' Court, the Court still maintains oversight as to the ward's income and assets. The Guardian of the Estate must file annual reports to show how the income of the ward has been collected and spent. With income, the Guardian may use it to provide for the care and maintenance of the ward in a reasonable manner. It is not necessary to seek approval from the Court to spend income on items such as food, clothing, and shelter. However, it may be wise to discuss these type of expenditures with an elder law attorney if there is any confusion as to whether the proposed spending is reasonable and necessary.

With regard to principal, the Court will generally have to approve the spending of principal before it is spent. The Court will usually give approval if the expenditure is for the maintenance, care or education of the ward, for reasonable funeral expenses for the ward or for attorney's fees and costs involved in establishing the guardianship. It is also necessary to get Court approval before selling the ward's real estate or gifting the ward's assets to his or her family, provided that the gifts are made according to a previously established pattern of giving.

There should be a proposed budget for the ward, including an estimate of monthly payments for residential care, insurance, utilities, food, and clothes. Those who are tasked with the guardianship of a loved one should not take this responsibility lightly. To ensure that there are no issues with spending the income and principal of the ward, the Guardian of the Estate should have help from an experienced elder care lawyer .

Source: AlleghenyCourts.us, "So you're a guardian -- now what?, page 6," accessed on March 28, 2017

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