The idea of a guardianship or conservatorship really came before the mainstream population a few years ago when pop idol Britney Spears seemed to have an emotional breakdown right in front of the public eye. At that time, her father was named as her conservator. The term sounds like a babysitter, at best, or like a harsh authoritarian figure with financial power, at worst. So, what is a guardianship, really?
A guardianship in Prince George’s County Maryland is ordered by the courts in cases where an individual is unable to make his or her own decisions—typically as they relate to finances and healthcare. When someone has been found unsuitable for such decisions, someone else is named to make them. This person is called the guardian. Someone who has been appointed to take care of financial matters is called a “guardian of the property,” and someone appointed to make personal and medical decisions is called a “guardian of the person.” (In some states, the person who makes personal decisions for someone who is incapacitated is referred to as the “conservator.”) One person may fill both roles.
Situations Which Warrant a Guardian
In Maryland, guardians are granted to people who have been found to be somehow “incapacitated.” In some states, this is also referred to as being a “protected person.” To fit the criteria, the person in question will generally need to have a mental impairment to the point where he or she cannot meet his or her own health and safety needs and/or be able to manage financial affairs well enough to support one’s self or legal dependents.
Again, the words, mental impairment, are key. Simply making bad choices or using bad judgment is not enough to warrant a guardianship here in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County Maryland. The final determination on whether or not a person fits the requirements is made only by a judge. The process can be started, however, when a petition is filed with the courts asking for the appointment of a guardian. The request can be made by just about anyone who has an interest in your well-being, including yourself.
It is also permissible for any interested party to object to the need for a guardian or to question the choice of people considered for the role. It is usually the person’s spouse or child which is appointed.
Choosing Your Own Guardian
While the role of guardian is appointed by a judge according to specific laws, it doesn’t mean an individual has no say in the matter regarding who will be in charge of the finances, medical, or personal care. The best course of action to ensure your wishes are followed is to work with a wills and trusts lawyer in advance to create a powers of attorney and medical directives. If you have these in place, you don’t need to go through the guardianship process, as the person named within will already have been given the responsibility.
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About Nicole K. White
After losing a close relative, Nicole witnessed the devastation, enormous expense and chaos caused by not having a simple estate plan. It is Nicole’s mission to educate parents, especially single parents, about protecting themselves, their families, minor children, and assets with comprehensive Estate Planning.