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Understanding adult guardianship in Virginia

On Behalf of | Sep 4, 2023 | Guardianship/Conservatorship

Adult guardianship is a legal process that protects Virginia adults who cannot make sound decisions about their personal or financial affairs. The arrangement seeks to safeguard the well-being of vulnerable adults while helping prevent instances of exploitation or neglect.

Taking the following steps is necessary to establish an adult guardianship in Virginia.

Determine the need for guardianship

A guardianship is a restrictive arrangement, so it is essential to ensure there is a genuine need for it. Typically, a vulnerable adult is one who is unable to make necessary decisions because he or she has some sort of physical or mental incapacity. In this scenario, a concerned individual or agency files a petition with the local circuit court expressing concern about someone else’s capacity to make personal decisions. It is worth noting that guardianships differ from conservatorships in that they involve personal, rather than financial, decision-making.

Evaluate capacity

Upon receiving the petition, the court appoints a neutral guardian ad litem to evaluate the individual’s capacity. This evaluation involves a thorough examination of the person’s physical and mental health, cognitive abilities and decision-making capacity. The guardian ad litem then submits a report to the court that outlines his or her findings.

Attend a court hearing

Following the evaluation, a court hearing takes place. During this hearing, the petitioner presents evidence supporting the need for guardianship, while the respondent has the opportunity to contest it.

Appoint a guardian

If the court determines that guardianship is necessary, it will appoint a suitable guardian. The guardian can be an individual, family member, friend or even a professional, depending on the circumstances.

Currently, about 12,000 Virginia adults are under guardianship, and almost half of those individuals are under the age of 45. Remember, the point of guardianship is not to have ultimate control over your loved one, it is to help them in a time when they cannot necessarily help themselves.