Our View of the Legislature: Guardianship

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Several legislative committees are considering action on recommendations that were made as a result of a recent study done by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission concerning Virginia’s Guardianship and Conservatorship laws. That study can be found by clicking here.

The Senate adopted many of the recommendations in one comprehensive bill, brought by Senator McPike. SB 514 was approved by the Senate Judiciary committee and referred to Senate Finance.

In the House, the issues are being considered in a series of bills and have reached different outcomes:

HB 94 (Head) would have created an Ombudsman for the public guardianship program, located in the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services. Delegate Head withdrew his bill, based, in part, on objections from DARS.

HB 424 (Herring) and HB 634 (Roem) would have required a guardian to visit the incapacitated person at least once very three months to make certain observations. HB 424 was stricken, in favor of HB 634 HB 634 was heavily opposed by the Hospital Association, fearing that it would limit their ability to locate guardians to transfer people against their will. A House subcommittee of Courts of Justice converted the bill into a “workgroup,” and specifically added dLCV to the workgroup.

HB 623 (Hudson) requires the guardian ad litem to notify the court promptly if the person who may be subject to the guardianship requests counsel. Current law only requires this if the GAL believes it is necessary. The bill has been recommended for reporting by a House subcommittee of Courts of Justice.

HB 643 (Roem) sets conditions for periodic reviews of guardianship orders. The bill was recommended for reporting by a House subcommittee of Courts of Justice.

HB 1207 (Roem) establishes a training program for guardians. So that it does not conflict with her HB 634, Delegate Roem converted this bill to a study request. A House subcommittee recommended it for reporting.

HB 1260 (Roem) creates a process for when a guardian can restrict visitors for an incapacitated person, which leans towards supporting a person’s visitation rights. A House subcommittee recommended it for reporting.

SB 302 (Deeds) allows a physician to declare someone permanently incapacitated prior to age 18, making the parents permanent natural guardians. This bill is not related to any recommendations from the JLARC study.  It is being brought by Senator Deeds on behalf of Senator Edwards. We expect amendments, based on many objections from stakeholders. dLCV has not seen the amendments, but we will stand in opposition to any bill that creates automatic or permanent guardianships.

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 policy makers about the potential impact of legislative proposals and budgetary considerations. Please let us know of any legislative proposals or budget issues that you think we should be following. Contact us at info@dlcv.org or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 804-225-2042.