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I’ve Just Been Appointed A Guardian of An Incapacitated Person, What Does That Mean?

When a person reaches a point where they are unable to function either daily or manage their own finances the court may appoint a guardian if the person is adjudicated an “incapacitated person.” If the incapacitated person only needs aid or assistance in their daily functioning, the court may appoint a guardian of the pers on. If, however, the incapacitated person can function in their day-to-day life, but is having problems managing their financing, the court may appoint a guardian of the estate to manage their finances. Often times, however, a person may require both types of guardians. A court may choose to vest in a single person as the “plenary guardian” of both the estate and the person. Although the guardian is vested with the ability to make many decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person, even medical decisions, the power is not absolute.

Even a plenary guardian does not have the authority nor can the guardian obtain authority to admit an incapacitated person to an inpatient psychiatric facility per statute, 20 Pa. C.S. 5521(f)(1). In a Delaware County Court of Common Pleas case, In re: Jane Doe, An Incapacitated Person, No. 262 of 2014, the court appointed a plenary guardian over Jane Doe (hereafter “the Guardian”). After the guardianship appointment, the Nether Providence Township Police Department had Jane Doe committed to Crozer Chester Medical (hereafter “Crozer”) for seventy-two (72) hours. The involuntary commitment was extended by twenty (20) days by statute. After the twenty (20) days elapsed, the Guardian attempted to have her stay extended for a period of time not to exceed ninety (90) days consistent with the recommendations of Jane Doe’s physicians and social worker. The Guardian filed an Emergency Petition for Admission to an Extended Stay Inpatient Rehab Facility requesting the Trial Court to grant the Guardian authority to admit Jane Doe. The Trial Court, however, found that it was prohibited from granting the Guardian this authority by statute. Specifically, 20 Pa. C.S. 5521(f)(1) reads as follows:

(f) Powers and duties not granted to guardian. – The court may not  grant to a guardian powers controlled by other statute, including, but not  limited to, the power: (1) To admit the incapacitated person to an  inpatient psychiatric facility or State center for the mentally retarded.

The Trial Court noted in a footnote that the procedure for involuntarily admitting an incapacitated person to an inpatient psychiatric facility is codified at 50 P.S. 7301, et. seq. which requires the county administrator or the director of the facility to file a petition and serve a petition alleging severe mental disability and treatment need. The Trial Court therefore found that although the Guardian had good intentions in filing the petition, that the Guardian lacked standing to file such a petition.

If you’ve just been appointed the guardian of an incapacitated person and you wish to discuss the powers granted, contact the lawyers at The Pagano Law Firm for a consultation.

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