January 2018

What Does the Guardian Ad Litem Do?

This Newsletter is part of a continuous series explaining the components of a Guardianship/Conservatorship case. Previously we discussed the components of the Petition. This time we examine the function of the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL). We refer to the alleged incapacitated person as the Respondent.

Every petition requires a request for the court to appoint a GAL. The GAL is another attorney appointed by the court to (1) investigate the petition; (2) serve and interview the Respondent; (2) write and file a report with the court stating whether the Respondent is incapacitated and requires a Guardian/Conservator to protect his or her interests and whether or not the person(s) asking to be appointed Guardian/Conservator are fit and proper to be appointed by the court.

When meeting with the Respondent, the Guardian Ad Litem advises him or her of the right to obtain counsel, to oppose the petition; to request a jury trial, to subpoena witnesses and to be present at all hearings. The GAL doesn't necessarily take the Respondent's side but instead provides an independent view for the court. The GAL can make a specific request to the court to appoint counsel for the Respondent. Counsel for the Respondent then acts as an advocate for the Respondent's position.

The GAL has authority to obtain all financial records from banks and other financial institutions where the Respondent has assets or receives income. The GAL report usually details the specific assets the Respondent has and advises the court of the amount of bond. In addition, the GAL has authority to obtain medical information and speak to all physicians, nurses, and care givers to obtain more accurate information on the Respondent's capabilities and behavior.

Because of the independence of the Guardian Ad Litem his or her opinion can be very influential in the determination of the case. The Guardian Ad Litem is paid a fee fixed by the court. If the Respondent has resources generally those resources are used to pay the GAL's fee. If the Respondent is indigent, the Commonwealth can be requested to pay the GAL's fee at a reduced rate.

Edward Zetlin Law is experienced in Guardianship, Conservatorship, Elder Law and Special Needs Planning issues. Don't hesitate to call if you face such an issue or if you have additional questions. Edward Zetlin Law would be happy to discuss. Please contact us at 703-379-0442 or e-mail at

Community Presentations: Edward Zetlin will be speaking at the Virginia Academy of Elder Law Attorneys in February 2018 at the annual program. His topic will be on Auxiliary Grants.

Contact us at (703)379-0442;

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