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Guardianship is the legal process for someone to take control of an adult’s affairs when they are unable to handle their own affairs (finances, medical decisions, etc.). CLS does not represent people who are trying to become guardians, but we refer those cases through our intake process. CLS’ Aging and Disabilities Unit provides legal advice to people trying to avoid having a guardian appointed for them and provides representation in some cases.

Sometimes dementias (such as Alzheimer’s Disease) or other mental or physical conditions can cause a person to lose their ability to manage their household or finances or to make reasoned decisions about health care. The impaired person may be at risk of being financially exploited by other people and may not be able to take care of him or herself.

In these situations, Pennsylvania law allows the Orphans Court to appoint a guardian to make decisions for the impaired person. The Court may appoint a guardian of the person (to make decisions about living arrangements and health care decisions) or a guardian of the estate (to handle financial matters) or both. The person who is the subject of a guardianship proceeding is called an “alleged incapacitated person”. Anyone who is interested in the alleged incapacitated person’s welfare can file a petition seeking the appointment of a guardian.

In order for a guardian to be appointed, the Court must find that the person is “incapacitated”, which means that that they are partially or totally unable to manage their financial resources or meet essential requirements for their physical health and safety. Because a ruling that a person is incapacitated and the resulting appointment of guardian takes away many important legal rights, the alleged incapacitated person has the right to request that the Court appoint a lawyer to represent him or her.

How to get help:

Walk-in Intake

Community Legal Services
North Philadelphia Law Center

1410 West Erie Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19140
Monday and Wednesday
9:00 am - 12:00 pm

Phone Intake

For Homebound seniors ONLY
(215) 227-2400

CLS’ Aging and Disabilities Unit is supported in part by funding provided by PCA and the Pennsylvania Department of Aging.
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