Standby Guardian — An Important Part Of A Pennsylvania Estate Plan

What Is A Standby Guardian?

A standby guardian is not the same as a guardian that you appoint to care for your children in a Pennsylvania last will and testament.  Your last will and testament only takes effect after your death.  This includes the provision in your will that names a trusted family member or friend to care for your child.

One excellent reason for Pennsylvania residents to make a will is to ensure that a person of your choosing raises your child if you die prematurely.  But if you are a parent, you should consider the possibility that you may not be able to care for your child even while alive.

A standby guardian is a person you choose to make parent-like decisions for your child in the event that you are still living but incapacitated, sick, missing, or otherwise unable to serve as a parent.  This person will raise your child, so it is important to choose wisely.

If a single parent in Pennsylvania is terminally ill or if you and your spouse are going away on vacation without the kids, a standby guardian may be appropriate.  We feel this option is appropriate for Pennsylvania residents regardless of your circumstances.  Designating a standby is a safety net and extra layer of security for parents and children.

How Do I Appoint A Standby Guardian?

Fortunately, the process of choosing and designating a standby guardian in Pennsylvania is not impeded by excessive bureaucratic red tape.  The Standby Guardianship Act makes it relatively simple to designate a standby guardian for your child.

A parent, legal custodian, or legal guardian can designate a standby guardian through a written designation.  The written designation should include all the relevant facts: the parents name, the guardian’s name, address, and telephone number, the child’s name, and what are called triggering events.

The triggering events are the incidents in which the standby guardian can take over the parental responsibilities.  Triggering events can include illness, incapacity, prolonged absence from the country, and death.  Once the triggering event occurs, guardianship automatically passes to the person you’ve designated.  This guardianship lasts 60 days.  During those 60 days, to extend the guardianship, the standby guardian must file a petition with the court.

The parent and designated standby both must sign the written designation.  It must also be witnessed and signed by two adults that aren’t the parent or the standby.

Final Thoughts

The Standby Guardianship Act is not away to circumvent the role of the parent.  A parent cannot designate a standby guardian simply because they don’t want to continue being a mother or father.

Keep in mind that a parent in Pennsylvania cannot designate a standby guardian when the child has another parent or adoptive parent whose parental right have not been terminated or relinquished, and whose whereabouts are known, and who is willing and able to take on the responsibilities of a parent.

In our opinion designating a standby guardian is an important part of a comprehensive estate plan.  Accidents do happen.  Taking the time to designate a standby will give you and your family added security and piece of mind.

Please contact VA Legal Team today to learn more.