Someone who is interested in becoming a guardian for a loved one or friend should try to speak with a Maryland guardianship lawyer as soon as possible. Someone with experience and knowledge of how the process works will be able to provide invaluable insight and guidance throughout the process. Courts take granting guardianship very seriously because there are major responsibilities attached to becoming a guardian.
Common Misconceptions and Myths
One of the biggest myth is that the guardianship proceeding can be accomplished very quickly. Often guardianships are needed in emergency situations. However, it is often difficult to help someone obtain an appointment as guardian in a quick manner.
The process can take several weeks to several months, depending on the court’s schedule. And it is best to plan ahead in an attempt to shorten the process’ duration. This can be done by avoiding the need for a guardianship entirely through having the alleged incapacitated adult sign powers of attorney for financial, legal, and healthcare decisions before they begin to lack the requisite capacity to do so. Or you could file the pleadings for a petition or file the petition to start the guardianship process well in advance of when a decision may need to be made. In both cases, having an experienced Maryland guardianship attorney providing advice and helping you make decisions would make the entire process easier.
The other biggest misconception about guardianship proceedings is that being appointed as guardian will allow you to commit an adult to a mental institution or rehab facility against his or her will. Guardianship powers do extend to involuntary commitment. There is a separate legal proceeding that is required even if you have been appointed as guardian called an involuntary commitment proceeding.
Guardian v. Power of Attorney in Maryland
A power of attorney is a document that is created by a person while they still have the requisite capacity to sign it. A power of attorney in Maryland can be revoked any time by the creator and it does not require any additional court oversight to use. A power of attorney typically does not require that the creator lose capacity to be used, rather the creator can be unavailable. The power of attorney often becomes effective immediately upon signing and can be used during times of unavailability as well as during a period of lack of capacity in the future. For example, you can use a power of attorney if you knew you would be out of the country for an extended period of time on business and wanted someone to access your accounts on your behalf.
A guardian is a person that is appointed by the court. A Maryland court will only appoint a guardian if there is no less restrictive means of intervention. A guardian is someone, usually a family member or a friend, who is appointed because an individual lacks the capacity to handle their own affairs or make financial, legal, or healthcare decisions on their own.
In Maryland, you can be appointed to make financial and legal decisions or healthcare decisions or both. The primary difference between a power of attorney and a guardianship proceeding is that a guardian will be subject to continued court oversight during the duration of the guardianship.
A court will appoint a guardian for a minor who has been orphaned, or who is receiving an inheritance or other proceeds. With regard to adults, a court will appoint a guardian for adults that lack the ability to make their own financial, legal, or healthcare decisions.
How a Maryland Guardianship Lawyer Can Help
A Maryland guardianship attorney will begin by assisting you to collect the information that is required in the initial petition, such as a list of the assets, nature of the assets, the location of the assets, the titling of the assets, and the estimated amount of the assets. The attorney will also help you collect the doctor’s certifications and the names and addresses of all the interested persons.
The attorney will often prepare the initial petition to the court with your assistance. A guardianship attorney in Maryland will then also represent you and come with you to court for the initial hearing. If necessary, the attorney can help you prepare for the trial by collecting evidence, helping to interview expert witnesses, and preparing anything else necessary to present the case before during the trial.
After you are appointed, a Maryland guardianship lawyer can assist you to prepare an inventory of all the assets of the ward, advise you on your fiduciary obligations, and assist you with required court reportings and accountings that are due.