If your parent or another loved one is no longer able to manage his or her affairs, a guardianship may be the best choice for your family. With this arrangement, the appointed guardian can make decisions about where the person will live, the medical care he or she receives and other important quality of life factors. A conservator, who may be the same as the guardian or a different person, manages the individual’s finances and estate.

These are the steps to seeking guardianship or conservatorship of an adult in Virginia.

Determining eligibility

Guardianship is available only when a person is legally incapacitated. This means that he or she has a mental or physical condition that limits the ability to make decisions and care for oneself. The development of dementia, such as with Alzheimer’s disease, is a common reason for a person to need a guardian.

Filing a petition

Anyone can file a guardianship petition in the circuit court of the Florida county where the individual lives. The court will schedule a hearing about the guardianship and notify the person’s spouse, parents, siblings and children, if applicable, or at least three relatives if the person has not married or had children.

Attending the hearing

Before the hearing, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to act on behalf of your incapacitated family member. He or she will visit the person and gather evidence that helps the court determine whether guardianship is appropriate. Your family member may also be present at the hearing along with his or her attorney if desired. A psychologist or psychiatrist will conduct an evaluation to assess the person’s ability to provide self-care.

The court will appoint a guardian or conservator only when the person cannot provide for his or her own health and safety without assistance. If the petition is successful, the guardian must visit the person regularly and make annual reports and recommendations to the court about his or her well-being.