The guardianship and conservatorship laws in Virginia can be tricky to navigate. If you’re considering applying for guardianship of a family member, then the first thing you’re going to need is the professional help of an experienced guardianship and estate planning attorney. Here at PJI Law, PLC, we can fill the bill.
Although estate planning is an integral part of people’s affairs, many people neglect it. However, that’s where we come in. Our Fairfax, Virginia, legal team at PJI Law can aid you with both guardianship and estate planning, offering our assistance and guidance when you need it most.
Is There a Difference Between a Guardian and Conservator?
You may have heard the terms “Guardian” and “Conservator” used interchangeably before, but they’re two different things. To become a guardian, you must obtain a court order appointing you as the legal guardian of the person in question (an incapacitated adult), for whom you would be primarily responsible in terms of their care. In contrast, a conservator only has the legal authority to manage the financial and estate planning of the incapacitated person.
How Do You Apply for a Guardianship in Northern Virginia?
If your family member or loved one is incapacitated and unable to care for themselves, you can apply for guardianship of the person through the courts. To do so, you’ll first need the assistance of a professional guardianship attorney. Once you find a guardianship lawyer you can trust, the next step is to comply with the requirements that begin at Virginia Code §64.2-2000.
The requirements include:
1) Filing a Petition
If you’re applying to become someone’s guardian, you’ll need to file a petition. Once you do, you’ll officially be the “petitioner,” and the person you’re seeking guardianship of will be the “respondent.” You’ll also typically need to file your guardianship petition in the county in which the respondent currently resides or where they lived before being moved to a care home (if they live in one).
2) Assigning a Guardian Ad Litem
After filing the petition with the court, a judge will then appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL). The GAL will then initiate an investigation of the claims and statements in the petition to determine their validity.
3) Gathering Evidence
It’s the responsibility of the petitioner to gather evidence that proves the claims made in the petition. The evidence should clearly show that the respondent is incapacitated and will need the help of a guardian to receive proper care.
4) Attending Court Hearings
After the petitioner gathers all the relevant evidence, the next step in the guardianship process is attending court hearings. The time and date of the hearing will vary based on the procedures and scheduling limitations of the court where you filed the petition.
5) Court Order of Appointment
The only person who can appoint a petitioner as a legal guardian is a judge. If the judge approves the request, the next step is for the petitioner’s attorney to file a Court Order of Appointment.
Once the judge signs the Court Order of Appointment, the next step for the petitioner is to go before the Clerk of the Circuit Court for qualifications. The process consists of signing forms and documents, and you’ll have to swear an oath certifying you’ll perform your legal duties to the best of your ability. Once the qualification process is complete, only then will you be an official guardian.
Why You Should Hire a Guardianship and Estate Planning Attorney in Northern Virginia
As you can see, the guardianship process can be time-consuming and complex. It involves many steps, qualifications, and requirements, and failure to comply correctly can result in the denial of your petition. For these reasons alone, it’s crucial to have the experience and skill of a professional guardianship and estate lawyer.
In addition, an estate and guardianship lawyer will guide you through the application process, help you with the filing requirements, and serve as your advocate during the court hearings.
Professional Guardianship and Estate Attorneys
When you need the assistance of a guardianship and estate planning attorney, look no further than the professionals at PJI Law, PLC in Fairfax, Virginia. Our legal team has experience successfully handling guardianship cases in Northern Virginia, and we also provide estate planning. Call us today at (703) 865-6100 to learn more about our firm and schedule your initial consultation. You can also fill out our online form here.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.