Pittsburgh Guardianship Lawyers
Providing Personalized Legal Solutions Informed by Decades of Experience
Herb & Winters Law has over 40 years of experience supporting clients in their legal matters. We aim to provide tailored and personalized attention to each case, as there is no such thing as a cookie-cutter solution that fits all. This is especially true of guardianship cases, as the provisions for each guardianship may differ, depending on the circumstances.
Guardianship most often applies in cases involving a minor who has received a substantial inheritance or gift in their own name, a disabled person who has attained the age of majority but who cannot assume adult responsibilities concerning their own affairs, or an elderly person who no longer has the capacity to make financial or healthcare decisions. Herb & Winters Law has the experience and expertise needed to navigate these legal matters and help you get the guardianship you seek.
Appointment and Discharge of a Guardian
A guardian may be appointed by the court of the county in which the ward (person in the care of the guardianship) resides.
The following entities do not qualify for the role of guardian:
- individuals under the age of 18;
- corporations not authorized to act as fiduciaries in the Commonwealth;
- a parent of the minor (though the parent may be appointed co-guardian with another fiduciary).
According to 20 Pa. Code § 5131, a guardian may be removed or discharged in a process similar to that of personal representatives. Every case will be different, so an experienced attorney can better assist you in such a situation.
Note that for minors, a will or trust can designate a particular person to serve as guardian in case the testator dies before the minor becomes an adult.
Roles & Responsibilities of a Guardian of a Minor
A legal guardian has several important responsibilities pertaining to the management of estate property handed to the ward.
For one, unless the property is distributed or sold, the guardian of the estate of a minor appointed by the court, for instance, has the right to:
- maintain and administer each real and personal asset of the minor to which their appointment extends;
- collect the rents and income from those properties; and
- make all reasonable expenditures necessary to preserve it.
The guardian is required to record their actions with the court.
Within 3 months after the minor’s real or personal estate comes into the guardian’s possession, the guardian must verify by oath and file with the clerk:
- an inventory and appraisement of the relevant personal estate;
- a statement of such real estate; and
- a statement of any real or personal estate which they expect to acquire thereafter.
When any property is so burdensome or in such a condition that it is of no value to the estate, the guardian may abandon it. If this abandonment cannot occur without transfer of title to another, the court may authorize the guardian to transfer it if it finds this is in the best interests of the estate.
A guardian may also lease any real or personal property of the minor, though the lease shall not extend beyond the date the minor attains their majority, nor for more than 5 years after the date it is executed.
Additionally, whenever the court finds it in the best interests of the minor, a guardian may:
- sell at public or private sale, pledge, mortgage, lease, or exchange any real or personal property of the minor;
- grant an option for the sale, lease, or exchange of any such property;
- join with the spouse of the minor or ward in the performance of any of the foregoing acts with respect to property held; or
- release the right of the ward in the property of their spouse and join in the deed of the spouse on behalf of the minor.
Note that, according to 20 Pa. Code § 5164, all income received by a guardian of the estate of a minor, including funds received from the Department of Veterans' Affairs, Social Security, and other periodic retirement or disability payments under private or government plans, may be expended in the care, maintenance, and education of the minor. The court may, in turn, authorize or direct the payment of any or all the income of the estate of a minor for the care, maintenance, or education of the minor. In proper cases, the court may order payment of amounts directly to the minor for their maintenance or for incidental expenses.
Guardianship of an Elderly Person
Sound estate planning will often avoid the need for a guardian in the case of elderly persons. The designation and execution of a durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and living will usually take care of the needs that an application for an appointment of a guardian typically addresses. Nevertheless, our firm can help you navigate the guardianship roles and responsibilities pertaining to an elderly person, as well as provide useful information about handling these matters with the aforementioned estate planning tools.
The above are only some of the responsibilities and powers of a guardian, and the guardianship order may list further provisions. It may be confusing to navigate so many different roles and keep track of your boundaries as a guardian, so a lawyer can better help you make sense of your duties. Our guardianship lawyers at Herb & Winters Law can guide you through any legal concerns you have related to guardianship, from appointment to discharge.