If you become incapacitated and can no longer take care of yourself, the guardianship process will determine who is in charge of your financial affairs and health care decisions. When possible, we encourage our clients to plan and put legal protections in place early to ensure their loved ones maintain control of their assets and care.
The team from Chesapeake Wills and Trusts can help you understand the guardianship process for your loved one or put a plan in place that prevents your family from having to do the same thing for you in the future. Call our Maryland office today at 410-590-1900 to discuss your guardianship options with an estate planning attorney.
Considering If Guardianship is Right for Your Loved One in Maryland
Many people do not realize their loved one needs a guardian until it is too late to take any other action. When loved ones realize that a family member can no longer manage his or her own affairs, they usually end up fighting through the Maryland guardianship process. The guardianship process takes time and money for someone to get legal permission to make decisions for someone else.
We recommend considering whether you or a loved one may one day need help making decisions, especially as you age or as a progressive condition worsens. We may all one day be in this position, but if you have a terminal diagnosis or a chronic illness, you may want to consider signing a power of attorney and an advance directive sooner. This will help your loved one avoid the guardianship process and will automatically permit him or her to make decisions on your behalf as soon as you can no longer make them on your own.
Understanding the Guardianship Process in Maryland
When there is no power of attorney or other plan in place that grants someone else decision-making power, the guardianship process is sometimes necessary to name someone as a caretaker for an aging loved one. However, this is rarely as simple as it should be.
The guardianship process can take months or longer, and you may have to pay for not only your attorney, but also an attorney appointed to represent your loved one. The fees can quickly reach thousands or more, and that is in a case with few complexities.
The Judge Could Grant You Guardianship Without a Fight
In the best-case scenario, all doctors involved will come to the same conclusion about your loved one’s competency or lack thereof. If they agree your loved one is unable to make his or her own decisions, and nobody opposes the appointment of a guardian, the court may grant you legal guardianship.
Your Case Could Go to a Jury Trial
In some cases, your loved one will argue that he or she does not need a guardian and your request for guardianship will go in front of a jury. This means six strangers will hear your case and listen to evidence about your loved one’s condition. Then, they will weigh the facts and determine whether your loved one needs a guardian as well as whether you are the right choice.
As you can probably imagine, no one who can avoid it wants to try to fight the legal system to become the guardian of a spouse, parent, or another aging loved one. While we can help you understand and navigate this process, it is usually easier to avoid it all together.
Addressing Guardianship as a Part of a Comprehensive Estate Planning Strategy
It is not easy to consider that you may one day no longer be able to make your own decisions about your finances, health care, personal matters, or even living situation. However, this is more common than you probably realize.
People are living longer than ever before, and nursing homes or other long-term care facilities are a reality for many. Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other cognitive disorders that can render you unable to make competent decisions become more and more common as you age.
This is why we encourage everyone to address guardianship concerns early as a part of their comprehensive estate planning strategy. By planning for your future care and naming someone else to make decisions on your behalf if you cannot, you can help your family members avoid the entire guardianship process.
This may include:
- Identifying someone to make your business and financial decisions when you cannot, and creating power of attorney to grant him or her this power
- Identifying someone to make your future health care and medical decisions, and creating an advance directive giving him or her this power
- Outlining your preferences about your future care in a living will
When you have a comprehensive estate plan in place, it offers peace of mind for you and your entire family. We will help you navigate the process to dictate or determine guardianship, offering support and answering any questions you may have along the way.
Talk to a Maryland Guardianship and Estate Planning Attorney Today
At Chesapeake Wills and Trusts, our team can help you plan to avoid guardianship hassles in the future. Whether you worry about your own future or you have an aging loved one who may one day need someone else to make decisions on his or her behalf, it is better to act today while you are both competent to assign a power of attorney. You do not want to try to fight through the Maryland guardianship process if you do not have to.
Call us today at 410-590-1900 or use our online contact form to make an appointment with a member of our estate planning team. Our compassionate team will assist you in getting your ducks in a row to avoid the often-difficult guardianship process in the future. This allows you to sidestep the headaches, stress, and money loss that often come with the guardianship appointment process.