When a family member or another loved one is unable to care for himself or herself due to dementia or some other type of disability, he or she may need to have a guardian appointed by the court. It is the guardian’s responsibility to look out for the incapacitated person, or ward, and to see to it that the ward has everything he or she needs.
Guardianships help ensure that someone is there to oversee the lives of our most vulnerable Americans. Because establishing a guardianship does strip away some of your loved one’s rights, you may want to consider possible alternatives before determining if guardianship is truly necessary. However, if you need a guardianship, know there are two main types of guardians: guardians of the person and guardians of the estate.
The guardian of the person
An individual appointed guardian of the person has the responsibility of looking out for the health and safety of the ward. This might include figuring out where the ward should live as well as who should provide care, determining how much care is needed, monitoring the ward’s personal needs and making informed health care-related decisions on the ward’s behalf.
The guardian of the estate
A person who is appointed guardian of the estate has the authority to handle financial matters on behalf of the incapacitated party. This might include managing bank accounts, filing tax returns, paying bills, selling stocks or real estate and applying for public benefits, among other duties.
Before any guardian is appointed in Pennsylvania, the court first has to hold a hearing to determine if the party is, in fact, incapacitated, and that there is no less restrictive alternative, such as a power of attorney.