Shapiro signs guardianship legislation into law

BY BILL O’BOYLE
THE TIMES LEADER
WILKES-BARRE

Sen. Lisa Baker on Friday said guardianship is a meaningful way to provide protection and assistance for individuals no longer capable of handling their financial, legal and treatment circumstances.

“However, we have been alerted to cases where individuals have been victimized by guardians who are not properly trained or operating under sufcient supervision,” Baker said. “Such fraud cannot be tolerated.”

Legislation sponsored by Baker, R-Luzerne County, and Sen. Art Haywood, D-Philadelphia, to safeguard the dignity of adults in need of guardianship, was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Josh. Shapiro.

Senate Bill 506 — now Act 61 of 2023 — marks a signicant stride in protecting vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect and exploitation within the guardianship system.

Currently, Pennsylvania has more than 19,000 active guardianships. While many serve their intended purpose, some result in abuse and exploitation. Recent trends indicate an increase in the frequency of guardianship appointments.

“In other cases, full guardianship has been awarded when a lesser arrangement better serves the needs of the individual,” Baker said. “This bill strengthens requirements, procedure and accountability to reduce the potential of fraud and allow for options other than full guardianship when circumstances warrant a lesser surrender of control.”

The key provisions championed by Baker and Haywood include:

• automatic appointment of counsel,

• exploration of alternatives to guardianship, and

• measures to prevent prolonged stays in the system amid changing circumstances.

In addition, it mandates training and screening for professional guardianships, enhancing the review process for current cases.

Baker and Haywood believe this legislation will signicantly contribute to preventing fraud, abuse and exploitation within the guardianship system, while increasing representation for vulnerable individuals.

“Act 61 of 2023 adds essential protection for vulnerable individuals from bad guardians, like those who stole from my neighbor, Mr. Frisby,” Haywood said. “The criminal exploitation of Mr. Frisby by his guardian forced him to sell a property he owned. Sadly, it was too late to help him when I found out about this.

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