Watching a loved one struggle to care for themselves or their finances can be extremely difficult. Although you may want to help, if you lack the legal authority to make personal or financial decisions on their behalf, your efforts can be an exercise in futility. Or you may feel that seeking assistance from an attorney is beyond your financial means.
Fortunately, you’re not without options. Guardianships and conservatorships are legal arrangements that give you, another relative, or someone appointed by the court the power to direct another person’s affairs when they’ve been deemed incapable of doing it themselves. And, so long as the person seeking Guardianship/Conservatorship brings the matter to the court in good faith, the costs of representation and litigation are often paid from the assets of the incapacitated person by the newly appointed Conservator (or by the government when the incapacitated person is burdened by poverty).
A guardianship or conservatorship arrangement is intended to help incapacitated individuals manage their affairs and protect them from exploitation and abuse. However, because every situation is different, this solution isn’t right for every case. Here’s what you need to know.
Who We Help
When you need skilled legal representation you can trust, law partners Jack Grimes and Leah Henschen at GuideOn Legal Services stand ready to serve. We hail from Army and Air Force military backgrounds, and as Reserve JAG Corps officers, honesty, integrity, service, and duty aren’t just things we understand—they’re pillars of our practice.
We handle adult guardianship and conservatorship matters, helping clients who are:
- Petitioning the court to have a guardian or conservator appointed to assist someone they love
- Contesting a finding of incapacity or a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding against them
- Fighting to restore the rights of someone who no longer requires a guardian or conservator
While our law firm doors are open to everyone, we proudly serve military service members and retirees, FBI and Intelligence Community (IC) personnel, firefighters, police officers, government contractors, and other public servants in the Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Washington DC communities from two office locations.
Guardianship and Conservatorship Basics
Adult guardianship and conservatorship laws are complex and confusing. Here are a few key facts you need to know about this type of civil litigation.
A guardian is appointed to handle a legally incapacitated adult’s personal affairs. In this role, the guardian’s duties may include:
- Ensuring the ward’s social, emotional, and physical care or well-being
- Visiting the ward as needed to thoroughly understand their capabilities, limitations, and needs
- Filing annual reports with the local Department of Social Services regarding the incapacitated person’s medical condition, living arrangements, and the guardian’s recommendations
While a guardian handles a ward’s personal affairs, a conservator handles their finances. Conservators:
- Direct and preserve the incapacitated person’s income and assets
- File annual accountings with the Commissioner of Accounts detailing all money and property received and distributed on behalf of the incapacitated person
Who Can Serve as a Guardian or Conservator
Typically, a close family member, such as a spouse, domestic partner, parent, or adult child will serve as the guardian and/or conservator. However, if close family members can’t fill these roles, the court will also consider other relatives or friends or appoint a neutral third party. For example, if a family member is burdened with a poor credit rating, they may serve as a Guardian but perhaps not meet the court’s requirements to serve as a Conservator. In such a scenario, an independent, professional Conservator can be a valuable alternative.
Reasons to Consider the Appointment of a Guardian or Conservator
- Your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s and can’t take care of themselves
- An accident left you or a loved one incapacitated or incapable of making decisions
- You or a loved one developed a mental illness
- You have a loved one with a developmental disability or other special needs
Alternatives to Adult Guardianship or Conservatorship
Under a guardianship or conservatorship, your loved one can lose considerable rights. For example, a person under a Guardianship or Conservatorship may not be able to vote, drive, own firearms, marry, or sign legal documents.
Before petitioning for a guardianship or conservatorship, consult with GuideOn Legal Services to consider whether less restrictive options are still possible, such as:
- General power of attorney, which gives an agent decision-making power regarding financial matters
- Advanced medical directive, similar to a general power of attorney, but for health care, this document lets an agent make medical or end-of-life decisions when the principal can’t make them for themselves
- Representative payee, a person appointed by the Social Security Administration to manage a recipient’s benefits; this is similar to a federal fiduciary appointed to manage VA benefits
- Limited guardianship or conservatorship, which restricts the types of decisions guardians and conservators can make, so individuals retain more rights
Schedule a Consultation
Petitioning a court for guardianship or conservatorship, fighting a guardianship/conservatorship proceeding, or working to restore an incapacitated or disabled person’s rights all require engaging in complicated and time-consuming litigation. Let our trusted legal counselors be your guide. Contact GuideOn today to schedule a consultation.