A statewide Guardianship Tracking System (GTS) has been implemented to ensure the well-being of incapacitated individuals, with each data from each county collected and compiled to provide statistical information by 2020.
“The Guardianship Tracking System applies to anyone, relative or not, who has been appointed as a guardian by the Court of Common Pleas. The system does not include those appointed as guardians of minors, it only applies to those over 18,” said Huntingdon County Register and Recorder and Clerk of Orphan’s Court Jinny Cooper. “Huntingdon County began implementing the system in November.”
Guardians were always asked to file regular reports to update the court on the physical and financial status of their ward.
“Some have always been filling out the reports, but the vast majority were not,” Cooper said. “There was not a system in place to require it. Now, it’s a part of Orphan’s Court law.”
The new tracking system ensures that court-appointed guardians complete three reports.
“The first is an inventory of the financial status of the incapacitated person as of the date of guardianship. That is to get a financial snapshot of where they are at. That is filed one time,” she said. “Annually thereafter, based on the date of the final decree appointing them as guardian, they are required to file two reports. One covers what your interaction has been with the incapacitated person in the last year — have you gone to visit, how much time was spent with them and have you consulted with their physician or personal care home where the are living? The second report is a little longer. It’s a financial report based on a year’s worth of income and expenses.”
Upon being appointed as a guardian, Cooper provides an informational booklet which offers an overview of the responsibilities as well as the deadlines for filing the required reports.
“There has been some mixed feedback. What we’ve tried to do is to make it very clear that if people are comfortable with a computer and filing the reports online, they are welcome to do so. If not, we tell them not to stress over it,” she said. “They can continue to fill out the reports and bring the hard copy to us and we’ll enter it into the statewide system. That seems to have alleviated concerns. Many times the guardians are the person’s spouse, who might be older.”
The reports filed at the Huntingdon County Courthouse and online are reviewed and approved by the court.
“The reports are maintained by the Orphan’s Court at the county level and the information is put into the statewide system, which has built-in flags which automatically look for problems that may occur,” said Cooper. “More often, that is financial problems where someone’s finances are being exploited and the guardian is using the money meant for the care of the incapacitated person for their own use.”