Guardians ad litem are appointed by a court to represent a vulnerable person’s rights. They are often appointed in child custody cases, but are also frequently used to protect legally incompetent adults such as elders. Elderly people are often unable to represent their own best interests, whether from physical or mental limitations related to their age. A guardian ad litem can help protect their legal, financial, and healthcare rights.

At Kondori & Moorad, LLP, our experienced elder law attorneys help you understand the role of a guardian ad litem in your case. We protect elderly clients’ rights and your whole family.


The term guardian ad litem (GAL) is a Latin term that means “guardian for the suit.” A GAL is typically an attorney appointed by a judge or magistrate to help determine circumstances in front of a court. The GAL investigates and represents the interests of a vulnerable person, such as elderly clients.

Most states have specific requirements for GALs, including training, certification, or approved lists. For example, Virginia Code § 8.01-9 sets forth specific rules for guardians ad litem for disabled adults. Each state’s rules differ, but your local elder law attorney understands how this works in your jurisdiction.


Elderly people often need a guardian ad litem to protect their interests in court. Many elderly people are incapacitated adults. A person is generally incapacitated if they:

  • Are incapable of receiving or evaluating information
  • Can no longer respond to people, environments, or events around them
  • Are unable to care for their own physical and emotional needs
  • Cannot handle their own legal affairs or make sound decisions
  • Can no longer make appropriate financial decisions or understand their choices

The exact legal definition of an incapacitated adult varies, but these traits generally characterize elderly people who need a GAL. The court may appoint a GAL to ensure this elderly person’s rights are protected.


A guardian ad litem performs various functions for the court on behalf of the elderly client. The court usually asks the GAL to analyze the case and make critical recommendations. These recommendations and opinions may influence the court’s opinion in how to best protect the elderly adult.

Duties GALs often perform include, but are not limited to:

  • Speaking with children, guardians, and conservators of an elderly person
  • Analyzing the elderly person’s finances
  • Determining the mental competency of the elderly individual
  • Giving opinions on who should help care for the incapacitated adult
  • Reviewing the elderly adult’s medical records and healthcare needs
  • Filing appropriate motions or petitions with the court to protect the elder’s best interests
  • Appearing in court for scheduled court hearings and mediations

The GAL’s opinion is often vital to the case. Working with these important people is often critical to your case and in protecting your loved one.


Working with a GAL can be stressful at times. You may feel defensive, thinking that they are here to criticize your care of an elderly parent or loved one. The stress of your legal case may also be affecting you.

To help, here are a few tips for working with a GAL in your elder law case:

  • Be Cooperative and Responsive: A GAL is allowed to ask questions and access information. Freely provide answers and information the court wants the GAL to access.
  • Do Not Be Confrontational: The GAL is just doing their job. Avoid being confrontational or feeling defensive about their questions as much as possible.
  • Be Honest: Always be honest in your answers with a GAL. They report their findings to the court, and discrepancies or dishonesties could negatively impact your case.
  • Consult Your Attorney: Communicate with your lawyer about what the GAL wants and needs. Your elder law attorney can help.


At the law offices of Kondori & Moorad, LLP, our experienced elder law attorneys can guide you through the legal process and work with an appointed GAL. Contact us today to see how we can help.

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