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Guardianship - Senate Bill 506 is Now Act 61 of 2023!

Happy New Year from the Achieve Family

By Nancy Murray, President, The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh

On December 13, 2023, after passage by the General Assembly, SB 506 became Act 61 upon the signature of Governor Shapiro.

Act 61 is the result of many years of advocacy by disability and aging advocates (including Achieva) and the bi-partisan leadership of Senator Lisa Baker and Senator Art Haywood.

Act 61 amends Title 20 (Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes related to incapacitated persons and will provide protections for vulnerable Pennsylvanians in three important ways:

  1. Regardless of the ability of an alleged incapacitated person to pay, the person has the right to request the appointment of counsel, to have counsel appointed if the court deems it appropriate, and the right to have such counsel paid for if it cannot be afforded.

  2. An individual seeking guardianship of three or more incapacitated persons must be certified and provide proof of the certification to the court prior to a third guardianship appointment.

  3. The court shall make specific findings of fact concerning the extent of an individual’s capacity to make and communicate decisions and the need for guardianship in light of the availability of family, friends, and other supports to assist the individual in making decisions and in light of less restrictive alternatives such as durable powers of attorneys, trusts (including special need trusts), living wills, health care powers of attorney, health care representatives, financial powers of attorney, representative payees, mental health advance directives and ABLE accounts.

These changes are now law. They provide additional protections for people with disabilities when the court is considering taking their right to make their own decisions and giving it to a “guardian.” While this new law is a significant improvement, the next step on the legislative front is to require by law that supported decision-making be considered as a less restrictive alternative to guardianship when possible.

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