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Strengthening Protections: Pennsylvania Updates Guardianship Laws with Senate Bill 506

Pennsylvania has recently enacted a significant update to its guardianship laws, aimed at strengthening the protection of the state’s most vulnerable residents. The new legislation, known as Senate Bill 506, was signed into law on December 14th.

This updated law marks a notable shift in Pennsylvania’s approach to guardianship proceedings. Previously, Pennsylvania was among a minority of states that did not mandate the appointment of counsel in these cases. The revision of the law introduces mandatory legal representation for individuals deemed incapacitated, ensuring they have adequate legal support during guardianship proceedings.

The primary objective of Senate Bill 506 is to safeguard individuals who are unable to make decisions for themselves. It aims to prevent unnecessary guardianships and to address potential abuses within the guardianship system. This is a response to concerns about cases where guardians, lacking proper training or oversight, have committed fraud or not acted in the best interests of the individuals they were appointed to protect.

Senator Lisa Baker, the bill’s sponsor, emphasized the importance of guardianship as a means to assist individuals who are no longer capable of managing their own financial, legal, and health-related matters. However, she acknowledged the reported instances of victimization by guardians and stressed that such fraud is intolerable.

One of the significant changes brought by the new law is the requirement for courts to consider alternatives to full guardianship. This approach is intended to allow for lesser degrees of control to be surrendered when appropriate, tailored to the specific needs of the individual.

Under the updated law, when a person is deemed incapacitated, a guardian may be appointed to make decisions on their behalf, encompassing financial, medical, and personal matters. The legislation also includes provisions for the certification of professional guardians to ensure a higher standard of care and accountability.

Furthermore, the law introduces a process for reviewing cases where the incapacity might be temporary. In such scenarios, a hearing will be conducted to assess if continued guardianship is necessary. This assessment will consider various factors, such as the potential for managing the incapacity through medication, rehabilitation, or other means, the possibility of the individual regaining capacity, and expert opinions.

Senator Baker highlighted the personal nature of guardianship reform, citing communications received from family members and friends of those under guardianship. For these individuals, the reform represents a deeply personal and significant issue.

Comments

Tammy Annette Robinson 1964-2024

For the past years, Tammy helped take care of her mother. She enjoyed watching game shows and listening to contemporary Christian music.

Robert William Gordon 1947-2024

Born August 18, 1947, a son of the late Merrill R. and Goldie E. Kotzmoyer Gordon, Bob liked to hunt and fish, and loved spending time with his family.

Janice Mae Keller 1938-2024

Janice always enjoyed shopping trips with her children and always used that opportunity to stop at her favorite restaurant, Olive Garden.

Ethel R. Smith 1935-2024

Ethel was a very loving and caring woman. She will always be remembered and cherished as a loving wife, mother, grandmother, and friend.

Sharon M. Matthews 1951-2024

Sharon enjoyed game shows on TV, mostly Wheel of Fortune. She also liked watching the Food Network and talk about what they made.

Ralph V. Foltz 1928-2024

Ralph enjoyed hunting, telling stories, and traveling around the United States on bus trips, alongside his wife Lois.

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