Some issues involving the elderly and disabled can only be resolved through the court system. Types of issues which may require judicial intervention include:
Contested guardianship and conservatorship: When a person becomes unable to make personal decisions, such as medical care or where to live, and/or financial decisions, a Guardian (to make personal decisions) and/or a Conservator (to handle financial matters) is appointed by the Court. This is a two-step process; the Court must first find that the person is incapacitated, and then the Court must appoint the Guardian and/or Conservator. Often this is an uncontested matter, but there is frequently disagreement as to whether the person is incapacitated at all or disagreement as to who should be appointed to act as Guardian and/or Conservator. When this is the case, a trial is held.
Financial accounting: A third party often is in charge of an elderly or disabled person's money, as their agent (attorney-in-fact), trustee or conservator. This person is a fiduciary. If someone believes that the fiduciary is not acting appropriately, that person can sue the fiduciary to force them to account for how they have managed the assets under their control. If they have acted inappropriately and breached their fiduciary duty, a judge can remove them and appoint someone else to their position.
Financial abuse: Financial abuse can take many forms and can be perpetrated by many types of people. Children, caregivers, phone scammers and door-to-door scammers are among the most common. Virginia has strengthened some of its laws against financial abuse. When vulnerable people have been tricked or coerced into parting with their money, whether in the form of gifts or payments, people acting on their behalf can sue for the return of the assets. Financial abuse is also a crime and should be reported to the Police.
Physical/psychological abuse: Seniors and disabled persons also can be the victims of physical, sexual and emotional or psychological abuse by their caregiver and/or family member. Such actions are crimes and should be reported to the Police. Civil suits can also be brought against the perpetrator.
Nursing homes: Residents of nursing homes sadly sometimes are the victims of abuse and neglect by the staff of the nursing home, resulting in injury or even death. There are lawyers who specialize in litigation against nursing homes in these cases.
Trust reformation/modification: Trusts are often used to manage the assets of an elderly or disabled person. But there can come a time when the trust does not work as intended because of a change in circumstances or laws affecting the beneficiary or there could be a mistake in the way the trust was written. Through a court action the trust can be reformed or modified. A court action also can be used to authorize combing two or more trusts with the same beneficiary.
Will contests: A Last Will and Testament of a deceased person can be challenged in a proceeding to impeach the Will. Grounds for impeaching a will included forgery (the deceased person did not sign the Will) and undue influence (the Will provisions resulted from pressure from another person and do not reflect the decedent's intent).
Elective Share Claim: Under Virginia law, if you are married, you must leave at least some of your estate to your surviving spouse, unless you have a marital agreement where you waived this right. If your spouse does not provide for you in their Will or trust, you can use the courts to make an elective share claim against their estate and receive your rightful inheritance.