Guardianship of Minors in Northern Virginia
Guardians can be appointed for children or adults in various circumstances. When someone cannot legally, mentally, or physically care for themselves, the Virginia courts may appoint a guardian to care for and make decisions for that person—known as the ward. While it's not uncommon for wards to be adults, the majority of wards in the Commonwealth of Virginia are children.
Fairfax County and other Virginia courts are likely to assign a guardian in cases where:
- The minor child has been abandoned by the parents
- The minor child's parents have died
- The parents of the minor child are abusive, neglectful, or incompetent
- The parents of the minor children are incapable of caring for the minor child
The Virginia legal system utilizes three different kinds of guardianships to foster the care of minors: guardianship of the person, guardianship of the estate, and guardian ad litem. Depending on the circumstances, the guardian can be a person with whom the child is familiar, but that is not always a requirement. Whoever the Virginia courts appoint, the guardian is responsible for certain aspects of the juvenile's life.
Guardianship of the Person
This type of guardian is appointed to look after the physical and personal needs of the child, including food, shelter, schools, medical decisions, et cetera. This type of guardian assumes all parental authority for the minor child until he or she reaches eighteen or is determined to longer be needed by the Virginia courts.
Guardianship of Minor Children
Among the many fears that come with parenting is the question of “who will raise our children if we die before their grown.” In the Commonwealth of Virginia, if one parent dies in an accident or due to illness, the surviving parent becomes the sole custodian of the children—regardless of marital status or if the deceased parent was married to a non-parental spouse. But if both parents die, or each dies in succession, then the decision is left to the courts. At Hale Carlson Baumgartner, PLC, one of the most important services that our estate planning attorneys provide is to give parents the peace of mind that comes with knowing that there is a contingency plan for the guardianship of their children outlined in their will. Call our Northern Virginia office or contact us online to discuss your options.
Parental Succession and Guardianships in the Commonwealth of Virginia
If you are the parent of a minor child, preparing a carefully drafted and executed will should be high on your priority list. Your will is the only way to absolutely ensure that your decision about who will raise your children will be honored. In addition, your will can detail your wishes regarding the schools that you want your children to attend, what your religious preference for your child is, and where you would like them to go for healthcare. If you have assets, you can allocate them to the guardian or in a trust for your child. Once our estate planning lawyers are aware of your wishes with regard to guardianship and asset allocation, we can draft a will with a guardianship clause that expresses your intent.
Guardianship Without a Will in VA
If you are the parent of minor children and die without a will (called intestate), your children will automatically be placed in the custody of the other parent unless he or she is also deceased or has been declared unfit by the state. If there is no other parent, the guardianship of your child will be decided by the courts. The Virginia courts will usually try to place the child with a relative. There are instances, however, where no suitable guardian comes forward or there are multiple family members vying for guardianship. Situations like these could result in lengthy periods of uncertainty until the court hears all of the arguments. That’s why it is always recommended that Virginia parents identify a primary and alternate guardian and have an estate planning attorney draft a will.
Guardianship of the Estate
This person works as a fiduciary trustee for the minor with regards to his or her assets. If the minor has an inheritance or a trust, the courts may deem it necessary to appoint a guardian to make decisions with regard to that money until it is exhausted or he or she becomes an adult.
Guardian ad Litem
A person appointed by the courts to represent a juvenile's legal interests in court proceedings. Guardians ad litem may be used by the Fairfax County or Virginia courts for divorces, abuse/neglect cases, or in probate situations.
To state that there's a tremendous amount of responsibility and trust imparted to each type of court appointed guardians would be an understatement. Guardians can be the most important person in the lives of children until they are grown. Consequently, guardians are people who are at least perceived by the Virginia courts to be honest, in possession of sound judgment, and have the best interest of the child or children in mind.
Learn more about guardianship or contact an experienced Fairfax, VA special needs planning attorney for help with your case. Our conservatorship attorneys are here for you. Our attorneys are also skilled in handling every type of estate and trust, including non-traditional trusts like resulting and constructive trusts, and even pet trusts.
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