In the state of Maryland, a legal guardian, referred to as a conservatorship in certain other states, is a court-appointed individual or group responsible for making some or all personal and/or financial decisions for another person, called a ward. Legal guardianship is most often utilized for incapacitated seniors, adults with disabilities, or minor children. And there are several different types of guardianship, including guardianship of the person, guardianship of the property, guardianship of the person and property, limited guardianship, joint or co-guardianship, and short-term or temporary guardianship.
In this article, we are going to focus on a single form of guardianship – Temporary Guardianship. What is it? How long can it last? What decisions can the guardian make? How is one appointed temporary guardianship in Maryland?
What is Temporary Guardianship?
When a person is facing an emergency situation and is temporarily unable to make decisions on their own behalf, a short-term or temporary guardian may be court appointed to make necessary decisions for a period of time. The guardian is typically a family member or close friend. However, the court has the option to appoint a public guardian in emergency situations when an individual has no family or friend to serve as guardian.
How Long Can Temporary Guardianship Last?
The primary difference between guardianship and temporary guardianship is the length of time it remains in place. A guardianship is usually indefinite, though the ward may petition the court at any point to end the guardianship if they feel the situation is no longer necessary. A temporary guardianship, meanwhile, typically ends after a set date. Once the guardianship is terminated, the ward is once again in full control of their personal and/or financial decisions.
The length of the temporary guardianship varies by state, but usually ranges from 60 days to 6 months depending on the individual’s unique situation. A living will or a power of attorney document can also set this time period. The temporary nature of this type of guardianship is designed to get the ward through specific situations.
- The individual in question has become temporarily incapacitated. They are no longer able to make their own personal and/or financial decisions. If the incapacitation continues without resolution, a permanent guardianship might be sought.
- If a ward’s legal guardian is not available for a period of time, a temporary guardian can be appointed to fulfill these duties until the usual guardian returns.
- In an emergency, when there is no time to go through the normal process to select a permanent guardian, a temporary guardian can be appointed to see the ward through the situation.
Ultimately, the length of guardianship is dependent on the court’s opinion as to what’s in the best interests of the ward. The temporary guardianship will end after a set length of time, when the court decides the the guardianship is no longer necessary, upon the death of the ward, when a minor reaches legal age, after the asset being managed by the guardian is exhausted, when the guardian petitions the court to resign, or, as we mentioned above, when the ward petitions the court to terminate the guardianship.
What Decisions Can the Guardian Make?
The scope of the temporary guardian’s decision-making responsibilities is dependent on the ward’s situation. The guardian may have control over Financial Decisions, such as paying bills and taxes, applying for governmental benefits, managing both personal and real property, and managing the ward’s bank accounts, stocks and bonds, trusts, etc. The guardian may also be in charge of Medical Decisions, such as the power to consent to the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of healthcare; employ and discharge healthcare providers; and make discharge or transfer decisions from a hospital or similar institution. And/or the guardian may have control over Personal Decisions, such as clothing, housing, food, transportation, educational needs, etc.
All guardians, no matter the type, have a fiduciary duty to their ward, meaning they have a legal mandate to perform in an honest and responsible manner. Furthermore, the guardian of property must maintain accounts for the ward separate from their own.
Appointing a Temporary Guardian in Maryland
In the state of Maryland, to pursue legal guardianship, an action needs to be filed with the Circuit Court of Maryland in the jurisdiction where the person resides or is institutionalized. The court conducts a hearing where evidence is presented to establish whether guardianship is necessary and whether the proposed guardian is capable of serving in this role. The court may ultimately appoint a legal guardianship for the person, property, or both.
Whether they are permanent or temporary, guardianship is a serious matter and can be highly contested and stressful. If you are considering a guardianship arrangement or the court has ordered the appointment of a legal guardian, you should first consult a qualified guardianship attorney for advice.Your attorney will help you better understand the guardianship process, which may vary slightly from county to county in Maryland. Additionally, your attorney can represent you in court as needed.
Legal Guardian Services in Maryland
Located in Towson, Maryland, PathFinder Law Group specializes in estate planning, elder law, estate and trust administration, special needs planning and trusts, and guardianship. Our team can assist clients in filing petitions for incompetence and the appointment of a guardian. 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.
Once the guardian is appointed, PathFinder Law Group can help with the court filings and bond renewals as needed. We can also represent a person served with an incompetency proceeding who is interested in challenging the petition.
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.