When a person is no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of age, disease, or disability, a legal guardian, also known as a conservator, may be appointed by a Maryland circuit court to assist in making some or all personal and/or financial decisions. There are generally three types of guardianship, referred to as a conservatorship in certain states: Guardianship of the Person, Guardianship of the Property, and, the topic of this article, Guardianship of the Person and Property.
What is Guardianship of the Person and Property?
In some situations, the court may appoint a single guardian to manage both the personal and financial affairs of another person, referred to in court documents as the “disabled person,” “disabled adult,” “ward,” an “incapacitated person,” a “person under guardianship,” or a “vulnerable adult.” The guardian has complete decision-making authority over the other person. This is why Guardianship of the Person and Property is sometimes referred to as “Full Guardianship.”
In some situations, the court may appoint one person to manage the person’s financial affairs (Guardianship of the Property), and another to manage their personal affairs (Guardianship of the Person).
What Are the Duties of a Guardian of the Person and Property?
The legal guardian acts as an agent of the court, and the guardian’s exact powers and duties are outlined in the court’s Guardianship Order. These can include:
- Guardian of the Person: Managing everyday needs, such as the ward’s food, clothing, housing, healthcare, and even social decisions.
- Guardian of the Property: Day-to-day financial management, income collection (rent, pension, Social Security, etc.), property management, paying taxes, and financial planning.
For a more in-depth understanding of the duties of a Guardian of the Person and Property, you can review our articles on Guardianship of the Person and Guardianship of the Property, or check out this training video from the Maryland Judiciary.
What Are the Reporting Requirements of a Guardian of the Person and Property in Maryland?
In Maryland, there are distinct reporting requirements for both Guardianship of the Person and Guardianship of the Property. These include:
- Guardian of the Person: The guardian is required to file an Annual Report of Guardian of Disabled Person each year within 60 days of the anniversary of the appointment date. This document is used to ensure the guardian is performing their duties as ordered by the court and to monitor the residence and well-being of the ward. Failure to file the annual report could result in the guardians removal.
- Guardian of the Property: The guardian is required to file an inventory detailing the location, amount, and nature of the ward’s assets within sixty (60) days of appointment. After that, the guardian is required to file an annual Fiduciary’s Account within sixty (60) days of the appointment date detailing the status of all income and assets in the guardianship estate. The court uses both of these reports to monitor changes in the estate and ensure the guardian is managing everything properly.
Who Can Become a Guardian of the Person and Property?
While legal guardians appointed by the court are typically family members or friends, the court will try to do what is in the best interest of the ward. There are certain circumstances when a public guardian may be appointed. This could be an attorney or representative from a local government mental health or social services agency.
A guardian does not need to have any specialized knowledge or experience to be appointed. The court only asks that they follow certain guidelines when making decisions.
- Guardian of the Person: The guardian must follow a four-phase decision-making standard or thought process: Substituted Judgement, Best Interest, Least Restrictive Alternative, and Informed Consent. This process is designed to help the guardian thoughtfully examine a situation and consider every angle before making a decision.
- Guardian of the Property: The guardian is charged to “exercise the care and skill of a [person] of ordinary prudence dealing with his own property.”
For actions that may be considered extraordinary or not covered in the Court Order, the guardian must receive approval from the court. For example, the guardian should seek and receive court approval for large purchases or making charitable gifts.
Petitioning for Guardianship of the Person and Property in Maryland
Entering into a guardianship should not be taken lightly. It’s a challenging job and can have a profound effect on both the ward’s and guardian’s daily lives. If you are considering a petition for guardianship, you should first consult with a qualified guardianship attorney. Not only will they be able to help you fully understand the responsibilities involved with guardianship, but they can also help you throughout the technical and arduous legal petitioning process. While you may be able to complete some of the documents or forms on your own, it is always best to talk to consult an experienced attorney when planning the future of a loved one.
- The person seeking guardianship (the petitioner) files a petition with the Maryland circuit court in the jurisdiction where the “alleged disabled person” resides. The petition should “tell a story.” It should include detailed information about the petitioner, the alleged disabled person, the alleged disabled persons disability and its effect on their daily life, and any other interested persons. The petitioner must be an interested person as defined by Maryland law (Md. Code, Estates and Trusts Article § 13-101).
- After a petition is filed, the court will then conduct a hearing to determine whether or not guardianship is necessary.
- If the court determines that guardianship is the best course, it will issue an order outlining the terms and conditions of the appointment. The court may ultimately appoint a legal guardianship for the person, property (fiduciary), or both the person and property.
If the petition for guardianship is contested, the matter will go to trial. The petitioner and their attorney will need to present evidence of the ward’s lack of capacity to make personal decisions, as well as evidence that supports the petitioner’s ability to serve as guardian.
Legal Guardianship Services in Maryland
Located in Towson, Maryland but servicing all of Maryland, PathFinder Law Group specializes in estate planning, elder law, estate and trust administration, special needs planning and trusts, and guardianship. We can help you in filing petitions for guardianship, as well as better understanding the guardianship process overall, which can vary slightly from county to county.
To contact PathFinder Law Group about your planning needs, please complete our Contact Us form, call (443) 579-4529 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to guide you through life’s milestones in a way that is compassionate and reassuring.