Elder Law, Guardianships And Conservatorships

Because Americans are living longer than in the past, we are facing more age-related challenges than ever before, including incapacity. Conditions like dementia and Alzheimer's render a person unable to make (and/or communicate) decisions for himself. In such cases, a court may intervene on the incapacitated person's behalf.

These types of challenges are among the most difficult aspects of elder law. At DeFazio Bal, our attorneys guide clients through these challenges with compassion and care. No matter what side of a guardianship/conservatorship issue you are on, we are here to help.

Legal Authority To Care For An Incapacitated Adult

If an adult no longer has the ability to take care of himself or effectively make decisions on his own, it often becomes necessary to appoint someone to take on this role for him. In Virginia, the two mechanisms for doing this are guardianship and conservatorship. These are explained below.

Guardianship: A court-appointed guardian manages the day-to-day affairs of an incapacitated person. This includes making decisions about health and safety, medical care, personal care and living arrangements.

Conservatorship: A court-appointed conservator is responsible for managing an incapacitated person's finances and estate. This includes paying bills (with access to the incapacitated person's bank account), buying and selling real estate and property, and negotiating debts on behalf of the incapacitated person.

Both of these roles are serious responsibilities that must not be undertaken lightly. They can technically be performed by the same person, depending on the level of oversight needed.

Advocacy In Court

Taking away an adult's autonomy is a major decision, and the person who is alleged to be incapacitated needs to have his rights and interests protected. When a guardianship or conservatorship petition is filed, the court must assign a guardian ad litem to the person alleged to be incapacitated.

The GAL's role is not to represent the respondent but rather to represent his interests. This includes explaining the respondent's rights, conducting an independent assessment and filing a court report, and testifying as to whether he or she believes that the respondent needs a guardian or conservator.

The respondent can also be represented by a personal attorney in addition to the work of the guardian ad litem.

Contact Us To Discuss Your Rights And Legal Options

With offices in Midlothian and Glen Allen, DeFazio Bal serves clients throughout Central Virginia. To arrange an initial consultation with one of our experienced lawyers, send us an email or call 804-419-6551.