A guardianship proceeding is the legal process whereby a Court may appoint a guardian to manage the personal care or financial affairs of an incapacitated individual. Absent a valid medical directive, an incapacitated individual may need a third party to obtain the legal authority to make personal or health care decisions. Similarly, without a valid financial power of attorney, an individual may need another to make financial decisions. Even with proper advance planning documents, Court intervention may be necessary in circumstances where an individual requires protection from himself or herself or from a third party. In Vermont this proceeding generally occurs in the Probate Court in the district in which the person in need of guardianship resides.
Our state’s guardianship statutes were amended in 2008 and can be found in 14 V.S.A. Chapter 111. Promoting the use of guardianships only when necessary, the policy states that “guardianship shall be utilized only as necessary to promote the well-being of the individual and to protect the individual from violations of his or her human and civil rights.” 14 V.S.A. §3060.
To initiate a guardianship proceeding, an interested person may file a petition containing certain required information, such as the interested parties, specific reasons with supporting facts, and financial information. After the filing of the petition, the Court will order an evaluation of the person for whom guardianship is sought (the respondent) and appoint counsel if none has already been retained. The Court requests that the evaluation be completed within 30 days, and will the Court will schedule the hearing on a date within 15-30 days from filing of the medical evaluation. At least 14 days prior to the hearing, there will be required notices to all interested parties. At the hearing, the Court will review the record and make a determination regarding the appointment of the guardian and the extent of his or her powers.
For emergency guardianship situations, see 14 V.S.A. §3081. For voluntary guardianships, see 14 V.S.A. §2671.
For more information, see the statute referenced herein, or the Vermont Judiciary’s website.