Obtaining a Guardianship
Elizabeth and Glenn: When Alzheimer’s Surfaced
Shortly after Elizabeth and her husband Glenn celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Glenn described the changes he saw in Elizabeth before her diagnosis, “I’d noticed changes three or four years before she was diagnosed, but it’s hard to pin down when exactly it started because it began so subtly… it was just the little things here and there at first.”
As Elizabeth’s illness progressed she eventually became deprived of the ability to make necessary decisions. Elizabeth held assets in her name and as a result Glenn was unable to deal with them without her agreement. By the time Glenn tried to approach the subject with her, she was simply unable to make choices about their investments. Glenn remembers, “Over time her disease got worse and I knew I had to put something in place so that I could manage and protect her investments.”
Unsure of what to do next, Glenn met with his attorney to determine the best course of action. His attorney explained that Pennsylvania law allows the court to appoint a guardian to make decisions when a person or “ward” is unable to make decisions for herself due to injury, advanced age or in Elizabeth’s case, illness.
Glenn’s attorney’s helped to guide him through the process of how to obtain a guardianship and discussed how the court would determine which type of guardianship Elizabeth would need.
The first step in getting Glenn appointed as guardian for Elizabeth was to file a guardianship petition with the court which served to outline the reasons why Elizabeth was unable to make sound decisions. As it is not sufficient simply to say that “Elizabeth makes bad decisions”, Glenn’s attorney prepared a compelling petition focusing on why Elizabeth was unable to make decisions based on the information Glenn provided.
At the hearing, relying on the medical testimony offered, the court determined that Elizabeth was genuinely incapacitated and that a guardianship needed to be put in place. The court then proceeded to consider Glenn’s qualifications as the potential guardian.
How the Court Determines Guardianship Eligibility
The court generally favors the awarding of guardianship to a person named by the ward in a durable power of attorney but in this case, Elizabeth did not have one established. Glenn and his attorney were able to demonstrate to the court that a care plan was in place and that Glenn would make suitable decisions about the use of Elizabeth’s funds and investments. The court agreed that Glenn would make an appropriate guardian and he was subsequently awarded guardianship. It was assumed that, as her husband, Glenn was most likely to know what Elizabeth would decide if she had the capacity to do so.
Glenn was relieved, “It’s a challenging time for our family but I’m comforted to know that the investments Elizabeth so carefully put in place are protected and that I am legally able to make decisions on her behalf. I can now focus on her health and well-being without worrying about our financial affairs.”
Does Glenn’s Story Resonate?
Are you are in a position where you may need to initiate guardianship proceedings for a loved one?
Do you have questions about how to proceed with filing a petition with the court to obtain guardianship?
Our guardianship lawyers can help.
Contact Fingeret Law at 412.281.8222 to discuss your specific needs and to find out how our guardianship attorneys can help.