Guardianship is a legal process utilized when a person can no longer make or communicate safe or sound decisions about his/her person and/or property or has become susceptible to fraud or undue influence. Because establishing a guardianship may remove considerable rights from an individual, it should only be considered after alternatives have proven ineffective or are unavailable.
Generally, the need comes up when the loved one, whether it is a sibling, parent, or child, cannot or no longer handle any of their affairs. Sometimes it is needed for the person from a young age. More commonly today, children are seeking to handle the affairs of their parent or parents when they are entering advance years.
The person who becomes the “ward” of the “guardian” relinquishes all their rights over decisions for themselves, both personal and financial. It is possible to have a guardian of the ward’s personal decisions and to also have the court appoint a “conservator” who will be responsible for overseeing financial decisions.
In Virginia to be appointed as a guardian you must petition the court. Such a step is generally a measure of last resort for two reasons. The first reason is that the need for guardianship can be averted is a financial plan, which includes a power of attorney executed by the individual while the individual is of sound mind, eliminates the need for guardianship. If the individual later loses some cognitive ability it does not invalidate the power of attorney.
More to the point, the need for guardianship arises only when the person is considered not to have the capacity to execute a power of attorney. So make sure you get a solid estate plan in place when your loved one is mentally able.