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Guardianship vs. Conservatorship in Virginia

It can be difficult to know what your job as a caregiver means in the eye of the law. If you have a disabled child who is about to turn 18 or you are caring for an adult who has become incapacitated, you may need to obtain legal authority to continue providing for their needs.

You may have heard of terms like guardianship and conservatorship, but you may not know what they actually mean. To add to the confusion, the definition of the two varies from state to state. In this blog, we’re going to focus on how they are defined in Virginia so you understand your obligations if you are named a conservator or guardian for an incapacitated adult. 

Guardian and Conservator Defined

  • An adult guardian is a person who is in charge of handling the personal affairs with the incapacitated person.This includes handling intimate matters such as medical care, education, residency, and therapeutic treatments of the incapacitated person.An adult conservator is a person who is in charge of handling financial affairs and the estate of a ward.

These two roles can be filled by the same person or delegated among multiple adults. Let’s look at them further.

The general duties of a guardian are to:

  • Visit the incapacitated personas necessary. This can mean being a full-time caregiver (living with the ward). Importantly, a guardian does not typically take legal responsibility for the actions of the incapacitated person.
  • Encourage the incapacitated personto take place in decisions about their life and take those preferences into account where practicable. In any situation, you have a fiduciary duty to act in the incapacitated person’sbest interests. 
  • File annual reports with the Department of Social Services about the state of the incapacitated person.

The general duties of a conservator are to:

  • Maintain and preserve the income and assets of the incapacitated person.
  • Encourage the incapacitated person to participate in decisions related to his or her estate. If you are not also the guardian of the ward, you might also take into account the guardian’s recommendations. 
  • File annual reports with the Commissioner of Accounts about the financial status of the incapacitated person

The process to become a legal guardian or conservator can be lengthy, but it may be an essential one for your family. More granularly, guardianships and conservatorships may be limited in scope or in effect for a short period of time. You may also need to become the designated payee for government benefits, which would necessitate a separate court order. Regardless, it is essential to have the help of an attorney when dealing with these matters.

Our Firm is Waiting to Represent You

Now that you know the general differences between guardianship and conservatorship, it is important to know that you don’t have to go through the process alone. If your disabled child is about to become a legal adult, or an adult in yoru care becomes incapacitated, contact Norton Pelt to talk about your situation. Our firm has a wealth of experiencing handling this complex process, and we will represent you with the strength of the mountain. 

If you are a first responder, nurse, or any other medical professional, call us at 540-440-7007 today to receive a free consultation. It’s our way of showing our deep appreciation for your brave service during these difficult times. 

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