Pennsylvania Amends Guardianship Statute

On December 14, 2023, Pennsylvania amended certain sections of its guardianship statutes, effective June 11, 2024. Act of Dec. 14, 2023, P.L. 446, No. 61, Cl. 20.  Among the changes is the addition of a requirement that counsel for the alleged incapacitated person be appointed by the court in all matters in which counsel has not been retained by the alleged incapacitated person. 20 Pa.C.S.A. § 5511(a.1).  Section 5511(a.1)(3) instructs that the role of counsel is to “advocate for the client’s expressed wishes and consistent with the client’s instructions, to the extent the client is able to express wishes and provide instructions.”  20 Pa.C.S.A. § 5511(a.1)(3).  Section 5511(a.1)(3) further clarifies that counsel may not act as a guardian ad litem for the incapacitated person and that the court shall make a separate guardian ad litem appointment when it determines such an appointment is necessary.

The statutory amendments also change the pleading requirements for petitions for the adjudication of an incapacitated person.  Section 5511(e) now requires such petitions to “allege specific facts demonstrating that less restrictive alternatives were considered or tried and why the alternatives are unavailable or insufficient.”  20 Pa.C.S.A. § 5511(e).  Section 5512.1 similarly requires the adjudicating court to “make specific findings of fact based on the evidentiary record of the absence of sufficient family, friends or other supports and of the insufficiency of each less restrictive alternative before ordering guardianship.”  20 Pa.C.S.A. § 5512.1.