Working Together for Healthier Minds

Mental Health Association in

Butler County

What is Guardianship

Guardianship is a way to protect and assist an incapacitated person by giving decision-making responsibility to a qualified, trustworthy individual.  Guardianship is appropriate for a person who is thought to be incapacitated or unable to make decisions or manage normal responsibilities of daily living.   Because situations vary a great deal from one person to the next, it is almost impossible to give a clear, unquestionable example of the need for guardianship.  Also, it is important to remember that any involved person should pursue workable alternatives before making the decision to seek guardianship.


Guardianship may only be appointed by a judge of the Orphans’ Court in the Court of Common Pleas in the county in the ward resides.

Commonly Asked Questions about Guardianship

How does the guardian process begin?


Usually, the courts require that an attorney file a petition for guardianship.  In most cases, the person or agency who asks for the appointment of a guardian hires an attorney who then prepares a petition for guardianship.


Who may be appointed guardian?


The court may appoint any qualified individual, a bank, a trust company, a non-profit corporation or a guardian support agency.


Is there anyone who is not permitted to serve as a guardian?


Anyone who has a conflict of interest with the incapacitated person or anyone providing residential services for a fee is not permitted to act as guardian.


What can be done to help an incapacitated person in an emergency situation?


The court may appoint an emergency guardian when it determines that there is enough evidence indicating that failure to do so will result in irreparable harm to the incapacitated person.


Are there different types of guardianship?


Yes — there are two types of guardianships.  There is guardianship of the person and the guardianship of the estate.  These guardianships can be either plenary (when the ward is considered to be partially incapacitated).


What happens if there is a change in the condition of the ward?


After the court is notified of the change of condition, the Orphans’ Court will hold a review hearing to determine the current condition of the ward.  The court then determines the appropriate action to be taken concerning the guardianship.


Functions Guardians Perform

•  Guardians manage the financial affairs of the ward.


•  Guardians manage the medical decisions of the ward.


•  Guardians manage the decisions concerning where the ward lives.


 • Guardians represent the person in signing all legal documents pertaining to the person.


Facts About Guardianship

•  The Guardianship is monitored by the Court.


•  Guardianship is permanent in nature, unless the courts declare a change in the condition of the ward.


•  Guardianship ceases at the death of the ward.


•  The ward must be over age 18 and determined to be incapacitated by the Court.


The Mental Health Association in Butler County has been serving as guardian for Butler County residents for nearly 20 years.  As advocates for the mentally ill, the Association has been asked to develop guardianship services to protect the medical and financial needs of indigent mental health consumers who have no family available to help them make decisions.  In most cases, a debilitating illness has left these people unable to make decisions at a very critical time in their lives.


The Mental Health Association guardianship responsibilities on behalf of individuals have lasted anytime from several days to many years.


Any questions concerning guardianship may be addressed by contacting Linda Wagner at (724) 287-6844 or by e-mail at






140 North Elm Street

Butler, PA 16001


Local Phone Numbers:

(724) 287 - 1965

(724) 431 - 2207

(724) 287 - 3380


Toll-Free Number:

(1 888) 329 - 0468

Fax Number:

(724) 287 - 7090


24 Hour Crisis Hot-line:



Suicide Prevention Hot-line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)