The incidence of Cognitive impairment increases dramatically as we age, and enlisting the help of experienced elder law or guardianship attorney is an important step in protecting our family members, as well as a crucial part of our estate planning decisions.

The statistics are sobering; in fact, more than 50% of people over age 85 suffer from some level of cognitive impairment. Concerningly, cognitive impairment is showing up in younger people as well. If you become mentally incapacitated, a court may appoint someone to protect you and your assets unless you have appointed someone to make decisions for you through a valid power of attorney.

It’s important to understand how guardianships work and why a power of attorney is usually a better option. If you have questions about guardianship in Montgomery County, PA, or Chester County, PA, Slutsky Elder Law has the answers you need.

Leading Up to the Guardianship – A Guardianship Attorney can Help

When you are suffering from cognitive impairment, you might begin to have trouble making decisions about your finances, your medical care, or your living arrangements in Mongomery County, PA, or surrounding areas. Often, a friend or loved one notices that you lack the mental or cognitive capacity to make appropriate decisions for your welfare.

Anyone concerned about another person can file to have them declared incapacitated and have a guardian appointed. An interested party can oppose the appointment of a guardian but must have a blood or other close relationship. In either case, it’s best to seek the advice of an attorney with guardianship experience to address the correct path when trying to protect an impaired individual.

Generally, courts schedule hearings on guardianship cases within 30 to 60 days after the petition is filed due to Pennsylvania’s statutory requirement that the alleged incapacitated person receives 20 days’ notice of the guardianship proceeding. However, when the allegedly incapacitated person is at imminent risk of harm, emergency hearings can be scheduled in as little as 24 to 48 hours after filing.
During the hearing,

  • The prospective guardian will present evidence that you are incapacitated.
  • The judge will require medical testimony to prove you meet the legal definition of incapacity.
  • The prospective guardian also must prove that less intrusive options are not available, including community support or a valid power of attorney.

Generally, the judge will appoint a guardian if you appear to be incapacitated. Wouldn’t you rather have someone you trust filling this role? With the assistance of an attorney in Montgomery County, PA, you can prepare all the necessary legal documents to ensure the person appointed as your guardian is someone who will truly be looking out for your best interests.

After the Appointment

When a guardian is appointed for you, their powers might be plenary, which means they make all of your medical or financial decisions. A guardianship attorney will tell you that in a limited guardianship, you retain the right to make some decisions for yourself.

Guardians must account to the court for the actions they take on your behalf, in part by filing annual reports with the court. Also, guardians must seek court approval before performing certain tasks, including:

  • Selling your home;
  • Doing your estate planning;
  • Withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining care from you.

Due to the continued court oversight, guardianships are more costly and move more slowly than other tools, like a power of attorney. An attorney in Chester County, PA can help you write up a power of attorney you can grant to someone you trust. That way, you will be less likely to need court intervention and the appointment of a guardian who may not be someone who knows you very well.

An Alternative to Guardianship

The best way to handle guardianship is to avoid one in the first place.

And a guardianship attorney will tell you that the best way to do that is by signing a properly drafted power of attorney before the onset of any cognitive impairment. This can prevent many unnecessary guardianships.

Your power of attorney allows you to:

  • Choose a trusted person to make decisions for you if necessary, instead of letting a judge do it for you;
  • Avoid costly court oversight and legal fees associated with guardianships, and
  • Take advantage of asset protection tools and strategies not available to a guardian.

At Slutsky Elder Law, we often help clients protect their futures through powers of attorney, estate planning, and guardianship proceedings in Montgomery County, PA, and nearby communities.

Caring & Compassionate Guardianship Attorney in Montgomery County, PA

If you have not selected someone to hold your power of attorney and filed the necessary documents to make that selection legally binding, you could end up having your decisions made for you by the wrong person. What kind of decisions can a guardian make on your behalf? Guardianship lawyers will tell you that they can make all these decisions and more:

  • Deciding on your living situation, including whether or not you get to live independently or in a skilled nursing facility;
  • Paying your medical bills and other expenses;
  • Managing your assets and making investment decisions on your behalf;
  • Approval of medical treatment.

As you can see, having the wrong guardian can seriously impact your quality of life. Guardianship attorneys can give you advice about how to avoid situations like these. If are currently looking for professional guardianship lawyers in Montgomery County, PA, know that Slutsky Elder Law is one of the most experienced firms in the area. When Robert Slutsky decided to focus his practice on elder law topics almost 30 years ago, there were very few guardianship attorneys in the area. Today, he is considered a top estate attorney in Montgomery County, PA and he would be happy to work with you to develop a legally binding power of attorney. He also has offices in Delaware County, PA, and Chester County, PA, so get in touch with him no matter where you live in the area.

Guardianship lawyer in chester county pa
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