What to Know about Guardianships and Conservatorships in Virginia
Guardianships and conservatorships are relatively similar but have a few slight differences. These come into play when a Virginia court declares that a person is incapable of handling their own personal and/or financial affairs. The court will appoint a guardian and/or conservator for the incapacitated individual, often known as the “ward”.
Guardianships versus Conservatorships
When a guardian is appointed by the court, that person becomes responsible for an incapacitated person’s personal affairs. This individual will make decisions for the incapacitated person involving health, safety, and their place of residence if they are not committed. The court may grant an emergency guardianship for a maximum of five days in situations where the individual is only temporarily unable to care for themselves.
Conservators are appointed by the court to handle the financial affairs and estate for someone deemed incapacitated. In some cases, the guardian and conservator may be the same individual.
How the Court Process Works
Typically, someone files a petition with the circuit court in Virginia where the incapacitated person lives, or lived just prior to being moved to a hospital, nursing home, or other type of assisted living facility. After filing the petition, the court will schedule a hearing so they can see evidence surrounding the need to appoint a guardian and/or conservator. These types of appointments can be made for a short-term period of time, or permanently depending on the circumstances. They can also be deemed limited or full as well. Understanding whether you need a full or limited guardianship and what its duration should be are reasons why retaining the assistance of a skilled Virginia family law attorney is vital in these situations.
Things to Know About Guardianships and/or Conservatorships
These appointments essentially take away all rights the ward has to be independent. They can’t do things like rent a house or apartment, sign a contract, or consent to marry. The person petitioning the court needs to understand what the appointment encompasses, allowing the incapacitated the ability to retain any rights they can still handle on their own.
A limited guardianship can specify that the guardian and/or conservator can make medical and financial decisions only, which allows the ward to retain his or her right to rent an apartment, vote, or get married. This is where a conservator might be more applicable versus a guardian if the person just needs assistance with financial decisions.
Another alternative might be a Representative Payee, which is applicable for someone receiving social security benefits. This involves obtaining a medical professional’s assistance as well as a recommendation from the ward’s local Social Security Administration’s office.
No matter what route you plan to go, the court will require the incapacitated person be medically evaluated to determine what capacity this individual has to make daily decisions regarding their own life. The medical report will detail their mental and physical condition, note any impairments, and discuss whether there are any skills the person can learn that will help them improve their own care.
Retaining a Virginia Guardianship Lawyer
If you need a guardianship attorney in Leesburg or the surrounding areas, please contact our knowledgeable team at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy. We can assist with all areas of family law and estate planning. Call our office at 703.777.1795 or contact us online to set up a consultation.