Our View of the Legislature: Guardianship

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There are about 12 days left in the 2022 legislative session, so many of the bills dLCV has been tracking are nearing completion.  Guardianship reform bills, however, remain very much in play.

Unrelated to any study of guardianship, SB 302 (Deeds) was approved by the Senate and by a subcommittee of the House Committee on Courts of Justice. The bill was amended from its initially problematic form to simply re-state portions of the Health Care Decision Making Act within the Guardianship code.

As we have noted previously, the House and the Senate have taken very different approaches to reforms that were recommended by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. The Senate adopted reforms all in one bill, SB 514. The bill establishes a deadline of July 2023 for the development of trainings for guardians and January 1, 2025 for guardians to complete the training; enhances an individual’s right to counsel and right to have visitors of their choosing; establishes more rigorous oversight of guardianships by the courts and by an entity to be designated by the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services, as well as other improvements to the state’s guardianship code. SB 514 was approved by the full Senate and endorsed by the House Committee on Courts of Justice but referred to the House Committee on Appropriations, where it is expected to face opposition.

House bills are now being considered in the Senate:

Delegate Roem’s HB 634 creates a work group to study the need for regulating the frequency of regular visits by a guardian, where the Senate version established a requirement for every 90 days. Even though the issue is addressed differently, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary reported the bill without conforming it.

HB 623 (Hudson) requires the guardian ad litem (GAL) to notify the court promptly if the person who may be subject to the guardianship requests counsel. Current law only requires it if the GAL believes it is necessary. The bill was approved by the full House and reported out of Senate Judiciary without debate.

HB 1212 (Glass) provides for enhanced notice requirements in the filing of a petition for guardianship. This bill was approved by the full House. Senate Judiciary made some technical amendments to conform it to SB 514 and reported the bill.

Many other reforms that were proposed by the House met their end in the House Committee on Appropriations or other House committee: HB 643 (Roem) would have established periodic reviews of guardianship orders. HB 1207 (Roem) would have established a training program for guardians and made changes to the contents of the guardian’s annual report. HB 1260 (Roem) would have created a process for restricting visitors for an incapacitated person, strengthening the right of a person to have visitors. HB 94 (Head) would have created an Ombudsman for the public guardianship program, located in the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services.

You can read the full report and list of recommendations from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission concerning Virginia’s Guardianship and Conservatorship laws by clicking here.

The disAbility Law Center of Virginia supports all initiatives that enhance and protect an individual’s right to self-determination.  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. We are 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.