When a person becomes unable to handle their own affairs, the courts may grant a conservatorship so another person can assume these responsibilities of care. Virginia law requires conservators to look out for the person’s best interests, but abuse, neglect, and exploitation can occur. An Estate Planning Attorney from Promise Law in Newport News can help you avoid conservatorship in Virginia.
What is Conservatorship in Virginia?
Many states use the terms “conservatorship” and “guardianship” interchangeably for the same role, but that is not the case in Virginia. The laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia use these terms for specific roles.
- A Guardianship oversees another person’s physical care and welfare.
- A Conservatorship oversees another person’s financial matters.
A Conservator has broad authority from the court to take actions regarding a person’s financial business, including:
- Managing income and income from assets
- Investing money and managing investments
- Opening and closing financial accounts
- Paying bills and living expenses
- Buying and selling real estate and personal property
- Preparing and filing tax returns
Of course, the Conservator must have the approval of the court for major financial moves, such as transferring or liquidating major assets. They must also file an annual report with the court for accountability purposes. This continues for the rest of your life creating considerable work and expense for the conservator, not to mention the financial information is part of the public record with the court.
How Can You Avoid a Conservatorship?
A Conservator is granted significant authority over your life and finances. This person should be trustworthy and completely reliable. Of course, the best course of action is to avoid the necessity of a family member or other person petitioning the court for a conservatorship. The best way to avoid a conservatorship in Virginia is with a comprehensive estate plan.
By including certain documents in your estate plan, you can choose to whom you grant decision-making power if you become incapacitated, as well as set the conditions this person must follow. Below we briefly discuss two recommended tools to include in your estate plan to avoid a conservatorship.
Powers of Attorney
A Power of Attorney grants authority to another designated person to make financial decisions on your behalf under certain conditions. These documents are frequently used in estate planning to ensure your wishes are carried out if you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to handle your own affairs.
A Healthcare Power of Attorney, also called a healthcare directive or an advance directive, outlines your wishes for medical treatment. The person to whom you grant decision-making authority, called your “agent,” has the authority to direct your medical care. This document spells out your wishes for the agent to follow, but also grants them authority to make decisions for situations not covered by your instructions.
Revocable Living Trusts
A trust is a legal entity that holds assets for the benefit of another person or entity. Revocable Living Trusts may be changed or canceled (revoked) during your lifetime as circumstances change, so you can be sure your assets are handled according to your wishes upon your death. When you die, the trust reverts to an irrevocable trust, and your named trustee is then responsible to manage the trust and its assets according to your instructions contained in the trust documentation.
Trusts allow you to transfer or protect assets and avoid the probate process. Your beneficiaries receive what you have designated and in the manner in which you have directed without the delays, complications, and publicity of probate.
Avoid Conservatorship with Comprehensive Virginia Estate Planning
Conservatorships may be necessary when a person has not prepared for the future and an unexpected health challenge occurs. The process for gaining a conservatorship over another person can be costly and complex, and it is fraught with challenges and risks. Allowing another person whom you did not choose to step in and manage your affairs can be terrible, especially if this person is a stranger appointed by the court.
Avoid such a troublesome and worrisome situation with comprehensive Virginia estate planning. Promise Law offers a free Estate Planning Workshop that shows you how to avoid serious mistakes in your estate planning. Workshop participants also receive a complimentary consultation with one of our Estate Planning Attorneys. Register for this FREE Estate Planning Workshop today and begin taking control of your future.