Guardianship Tracking System will help keep guardians informed
Yes, we’ve all gotten older since the 2010 U.S. Census, but the percentage of people in a certain age category has also changed. In Pennsylvania, each of our 67 counties now has a larger population of people who are 65 and older.
Two of our local counties have senior populations that are among the largest in the state; in fact, the Carbon County population is aging faster than 79 percent of Pennsylvania counties, where 20 percent of its people (12,933) are 65 and older. The figures are similar in Schuylkill County, where 20 percent of its people (28,774) are 65 and older.
That’s one of the reasons why the state’s new Guardianship Tracking System is so important. Launched in December 2018, the GTS provides a way for all court-appointed guardians of adult incapacitated persons the convenience of filing inventory and annual reports online.
The state has been working on the system for eight years, said Theresa Santai-Gaffney, Schuylkill County Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans Court. The Clerk of the Orphans’ Court is the office that oversees the creation and maintenance of guardianship files, which must be updated yearly.
“I feel it’s very important for people to know that the laws of guardianship have changed,” she said. “We (the office) are offering one-on-one meetings for guardians to explain the system if they have any questions — just call to set up a meeting.”
She added that state representatives will be available at the Register of Wills office on Feb. 6. Anyone who would like to schedule a visit should call the office.
Late last year, employees of the Clerk of the Orphans’ Court sent packets of information to the 154 people currently registered as guardians in Schuylkill County. Nancy Briggs, Second Deputy, Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, said that anyone who needs assistance getting started with the online system can do so at the Schuylkill County Courthouse, in the Register of Wills office.
To become a guardian of an incapacitated person, someone must petition the county’s Court of Common Pleas, Orphans’ Court Division. What’s an incapacitated person? Legally, “incapacitated person” means someone who is impaired by reason of mental illness, mental deficiency, physical illness or disability, chronic use of drugs, chronic intoxication, or other cause (except minority) to the extent of lacking sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions.
Gaffney said that the GTS accomplishes many things that are important for the incapacitated person and the guardian:
Simplifies guardian filings — statewide, the guardianship reporting forms are now the same. Also, once a guardian uses the GTS system to file online, certain details entered on a previous year’s report and be applied to future year’s reports, without having to be re-entered.
Is available online at all times — the forms are available through the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania web portal with secure unique access code and passwords. Guardians can start, pause, continue and file reports any time.
Keeps guardians informed — GTS will send email reminders when the due dates for an annual report is approaching.
“A guardian is representing a person who can’t speak for themselves,” Gaffney said. “The GTS system makes it easier for a guardian to have the time to keep an eye on the person’s well-being.”
For more information about the GTS system, email GTSInfo@pacourts.us or call 570-628-1377.