Legal Guardianship in Maryland
Among the toughest decisions in life is determining when your elderly parent or relative has reached a point when they can no longer care for themselves or make rational decisions. The process of establishing legal guardianship for the individual to oversee the living conditions, healthcare and finances is a legal process that requires evaluation and designation intended to protect their best interests.
Many elderly and their offspring preempt the possibility of diminishing capability by exploring, in advance of any need, the various alternatives with an attorney who is experienced in elder law.
Our elder law attorneys have experience assisting Southern Maryland individuals and families with help and guidance throughout the entire legal process. Contact us online or call Hammond and Associates today at 301-861-4555!
What Is Legal Guardianship?
According to Guardian.org, legal guardianship is “a relationship created by state law in which a court gives one person or entity (the guardian) the duty and power to make personal and/or property decisions for another (the ward)”. This responsibility is intended to ensure the safety and welfare of an impaired person and may be assigned to any qualified person who may or may not be a relative.
In some instances, the ward may be capable of handling some aspects of their lives, but not others. For example an individual may be granted “limited guardianship” or, in some states “conservatorship” to be responsible for only the ward’s financial affairs.
How Does the Legal Guardianship Process Work?
The court will designate a guardian for an impaired person or ward when an official determination is made that an individual is longer capable of making responsible decisions due to a mental disability. Usually the court will prefer to designate a guardian who is an offspring, other family member or someone who has been closely associated. In the absence of a relative or close friend, a professional guardian may be appointed by the court to care for the individual.
Standards for “incapacity” differ from state to state. Seemingly irrational decisions do not necessarily point to incapacity. The appropriate rationale for some acts may be simply a matter of opinion, such as donations or gifts to others.
The court will determine if the individual is sufficiently impaired to require a legal guardian. Generally, this judgement is made if there is clear proof that the person is incapable of rational decision-making. The sequence of events is generally as follows:
- An offspring or someone close to the individual wishing to protect their best interests can formally request legal guardianship.
- They will retain a lawyer to file a petition for a court hearing to evaluate the person’s incapability.
- In some states, the proposed ward has the right to be represented by a lawyer too.
- The court makes a determination whether the proposed ward is, in fact, incapacitated.
- If the individual is deemed incapable of handling personal affairs, the court determines if the petitioning individual is the proper guardian and then designates the legal guardian. A legal guardian must be deemed a competent adult, either a spouse, offspring or other family member or friend. As mentioned, the court may also appoint a professional guardian who has specific training for this role.
With legal guardianship, the court has an ongoing responsibility to ensure that the guardian is truly protecting the physical and financial best interests of the ward. There have been cases of legal guardians who have handled financial affairs in their own best interest, not the ward’s.
In an attempt to stem abuse of the legal guardian’s broad authority, the court requires an accurate inventory of the ward’s assets at the outset. Following that, the legal guardian is required to submit detailed reports of investments, transactions and other notable decisions made on behalf of the ward. Certain transactions may actually require the court’s approval in advance. Guardians must prove that they have made proper decisions regarding resident and healthcare.
If a legal guardian is deemed by the court to be managing the ward’s affairs in ways that are counter to the ward’s best interests, the guardian can be replaced by the court.
Elder Law Attorneys Representing Maryland Families
Reach out to the elder law attorneys at Hammond and Associates to guard your family against unexpected crises. When a catastrophic illness occurs, many Maryland residents become overwhelmed. With advanced planning, you and your loved ones can minimize the stress brought on from a traumatic event. Whether you or a loved one need legal assistance for elder law, estate planning, Medicaid, or any related service, Hammond and Associates is more than happy to help. Our attorneys have represented elder law clients throughout Montgomery County, Frederick County, Howard County, Prince George’s County, and the surrounding areas.
Our principal office is located in Bethesda, but for the convenience of our clients, we can arrange for conference rooms for client meetings elsewhere. If you live outside of the Bethesda area and would like to meet with Hammond and Associates, we can set up a meeting in the following locations: Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Fulton, Bowie, Columbia, Frederick, National Harbor, Annapolis, Pikesville, Owings Mills, Towson, and Hunt Valley.
Contact us online or call us at 301-861-4555 and we can discuss how our elder law attorneys can provide assistance with legal guardianship. We want to help you protect your loved ones in Maryland!