New rules adopted in Pennsylvania will bring major changes to the guardianship process, which are expected to take effect in York County in December 2018.
The goal is to improve Court oversight of guardianships and to protect the interests of incapacitated adults. Increased information gathered will help Courts have consistent review of reports, identify trends, and target potential problem areas to protect the interests of this vulnerable group. There are several ways these changes may affect you.
As part of the general public:
It will become more important than ever for an adult to have a valid Power of Attorney, which offers the only way to avoid a guardianship proceeding in the event of mental incapacity. A Power of Attorney is a relatively simple and inexpensive document which should be part of any good estate plan. Proper advance planning may avoid the cost of a guardianship proceeding, which is considerable and ongoing – a drain on finances, time, and the emotional well-being of families affected, and, in some cases, make it difficult to use the person’s assets for his or her benefit.
This is not only an issue for the elderly. Unfortunately, mental incapacity can result not just from aging or age-related conditions, but also from the result of severe car accidents or health conditions not specifically related to age.
While it is easy to dismiss guardianship issues as affecting a small segment of the population, if you are affected, the consequences for you and your family may be severe. Proper advance planning can easily eliminate any potential issues in this area. This small effort on your part can provide future peace of mind to you and your family.
As a legal guardian:
If you are already a legal guardian to an incapacitated adult, the impact of the new rules will hit very close to home. Increased requirements will place a greater burden on you. Required electronic filings (e-filings) will change the way you interact with the Court system; going forward, you will have to file your annual reports online, not by paper filings. Increased Court oversight will also demand greater attention to record keeping and strict compliance with filing deadlines. Non-compliance may result in serious consequences.
A variety of information sources are available to assist guardians with these new demands. You should receive official notices which provide information about creating a portal account in the Guardianship Tracking System. There is also a short video posted on the Clerk of Orphans’ Court website page (www.yorkcountypa.gov) for added guidance.
If you have questions about this or anything related to your estate planning, we can help. You can start the process by joining us for one of our upcoming workshops. Click here to find the topic and date best for you and we’ll see you soon.
Jeffrey Bellomo, Esq.