Our View of the Legislature: Guardianship

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The 2023 General Assembly session is in its final days. The planned final day is Saturday, February 25, 2023.

All committees must complete their work today. Yesterday, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary met to consider the last two guardianship bills to be in committee, and the House Courts of Justice completed its work on guardianship bills. The various bills are attempts to improve our guardianship laws, mostly drawing from the 2021 study done by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission concerning Virginia’s Guardianship and Conservatorship laws. Many of the reforms have been opposed by the Virginia Association of Elder Law Attorneys but are generally supported by the disability community and the poverty law community. The JLARC report can be found by clicking here.

Here is the status of some guardianship bills:

  • HB 2027 (Roem) deals with the perennial problem of a guardian restricting someone’s ability to have visitors. In its current form, the bill establishes the process by which a guardian may restrict visitors, encourages the guardian to take the person’s preferences into account, and limits a guardian’s ability to restrict an incapacitated person from communicating with, visiting, or interacting with other persons with whom the incapacitated person has an established relationship. The bill passed the House and passed the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. It now goes to the full Senate
  • HB 2028 (Roem) establishes the minimum number of visits by a guardian. The original bill – never very demanding to begin with – was amended and approved by the House to have even lower expectations of a guardian. As amended, the bill only requires three visits a year by a guardian and only one of those in person. Parents associated with the former Central Virginia Training Center opposed the bill, arguing the difficulty of travel. But the bill was approved by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and now goes to the full Senate for approval.
  • Relatedly, SB 1140 (McPike) and HB 2437 (Roem) set training requirements for Guardians. The Virginia Association of Elder Law Attorneys opposes any statutory training requirement imposed on them. The House bill was tabled in the Committee on Appropriations. Still, the Senate bill passed the Senate and was approved by the House Committee on Health, Welfare, and Institutions, then re-referred to Appropriations. Its fate will now be decided by the budget negotiators.

Some bills in this session dealt with the information available to Guardians Ad Litem, who is appointed by the Court, to discern the best interests of the person who is the subject of the petition. These bills include SB 1144 and SB 1033, both from Senator McPike, which were approved by the Senate and by the House Courts of Justice on Monday and now go to the full House for approval.

  • HB 2383, from Delegate Hope, protecting financial information in guardianship proceedings has been approved by both the House and the Senate. It now goes to the Governor for review.
  • HB 1860 (Bell) sets slightly stricter requirements on the quality of a medical report in a petition for guardianship. The bill arose out of a situation where a person was placed under guardianship based on a single telehealth visit. The bill was approved by the House and the Senate and now goes to the Governor for review.
  • SB 987 (Mason) creates a duty for guardians to make regular reports to the court. The bill passed the Senate and was approved by the House Courts of Justice but was sent to the House Committee on Appropriations because it has an indeterminate financial impact. Whether it survives or not will depend on the final budget negotiations.

We support efforts to reform our guardianship laws in support of greater independence for people with disabilities. Our mission is to advance independence, choice, and self-determination; protect legal, human, and civil rights; and eliminate abuse, neglect, and discrimination of people with disabilities through zealous and uncompromising legal advocacy and representation. The disAbility Law Center of Virginia is available to educate policymakers about the potential impact of legislative proposals and budgetary considerations. Please let us know of any issues that you think we should be following. Contact us at ga@dlcv.org or info@dlcv.org or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 804-225-2042.