What to consider before taking on guardianship of your parents

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Time to establish guardianship—Becoming a guardian is a lengthy process. According to an April 2017 publication of the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, a hearing will take place within 120 days from the filing unless postponed for cause. Call VA Legal Aid about average time of hearings/trials.

Commitment—According to Virginia Legal Aid, guardianship ends when the incapacitated person dies.

The cost

The emotional impact of the petition—Guardianship is litigation. Petitioning for guardianship means taking your parent to court. “You are trying to have your parent declared legally incompetent.” –Evan Farr, of Farr Law Firm

The emotional impact of actually being a guardian—”It’s a role reversal. It’s a position you never expect to be in. You’re telling dad what to do when you looked up to dad. You’re trying to keep dad from hurting himself or hurting others. You might have to make medical decisions that have a long-term impact.” –Kelly Campbell, Campbell Wealth Management

Family fights—If relatives aren’t on the same page about who should be responsible, challenges can ensue. “The real worst case is when you have family members fighting over who is going to control mom or dad’s money.” –Cary Cucinelli, attorney, Cucinelli Geiger

The responsibility:

Guardian Duties

  • Visit the incapacitated person as often as necessary to know of his capabilities, limitations and needs.
  • Encourage the incapacitated person to participate in decisions.
  • File annual reports with the local Department of Social Services regarding the incapacitated person’s medical condition, living arrangements and the guardian’s recommendations.

Conservator Duties

  • Take care of and preserve the assets and income of the incapacitated person.
  • File annual accountings with the Commissioner of Accounts showing all money and property received and disbursed on behalf of the incapacitated.

Source: Virginia Poverty Law Center

(July 2018)

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