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Helping Families Preserve The Well-Being Of Special Needs Individuals

Sometimes, certain physical and mental conditions can substantially interfere with a person’s ability to manage their financial obligations and independently fulfill their basic health and safety needs. As a result, some persons with certain special needs might need to depend on the assistance and care of another person. If you know a special needs individual for whom you regularly provide care and help, you should consider consulting a Montgomery County special needs guardianship attorney for advice.

For more than 80 years, the legal team at Duffy North has proudly served the interests of Montgomery County residents in various legal matters, including those concerning guardianship of your adult special needs child, relative or friend. We are dedicated to promoting the best interests of you and your special needs relative or friend.

The Law On Guardianship For Incapacitated Persons

Pennsylvania law provides that guardianship services may be necessary to preserve the welfare of persons who are legally determined to be “incapacitated persons.” According to the Pennsylvania Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code, Section 5501, an “incapacitated person” is an adult whose communication and decision-making ability “is impaired to such a significant extent that he/she is partially or totally unable to manage their financial resources or to meet essential requirements for their physical health and safety.”

Pennsylvania’s courts have the authority to declare someone incapacitated and appoint legal guardians to make decisions on their behalf. Anyone who has an interest in the purported incapacitated person’s welfare is permitted to petition the court to establish incapacitation. Under Pennsylvania law, a judge is required to determine the following issues when establishing someone’s incapacitation status:

  • The nature of the person’s communicative and executive impairment
  • How well the person can communicate and reach a decision
  • The necessity of guardianship given the person’s social support resources
  • The need for guardianship in light of advance directives
  • The appropriate type of guardian based on the person’s condition
  • How long guardianship should last
  • Whether limited guardianship is appropriate

Minor Children Who Reach The Age Of Majority

A child’s parents are legally responsible for making important decisions on behalf of their minor child, regardless of whether their child has special needs or not. However, when a minor child reaches the age of 18, they are generally considered to be an adult who is emancipated from their parent’s authority. As a result, parents generally cannot exercise legal authority on behalf of their child, absent having guardianship status. This issue can potentially disrupt your ability to make medical decisions for your special needs child due to strict regulations protecting the privacy of an adult – such as HIPAA protections for medical records.

Although becoming a special needs individual’s legal guardian can be a very involved process, the easier alternative of using a power of attorney may be unavailable. That is because a valid power of attorney requires the grantor to understand the nature and consequences of granting someone else power of attorney. However, if a special needs child’s impairment qualifies them for being declared incapacitated, documents purporting to grant you power of attorney may be invalid.

Contact Our Special Needs Guardianship Lawyers

Legal guardianship can be the best option to make sure you have the ability to make decisions for your special needs adult child. Proceedings to establishing legal guardianship over your special needs child can be instituted before they turn 18 to ensure there is no gap in care.

At Duffy North, our attorneys have valuable experience handling issues regarding guardianship of incapacitated persons. To schedule a free consultation with one of our Montgomery County special needs guardianship attorneys, call us at 215-914-9939 or submit an online request today.