For many of us, our good health will not last forever. As we age, we could suffer physical or mental disabilities that prevent us from managing our medical care and assets. When this happens, a guardian might be appointed by the court to meet these needs.
How is a guardian appointed?
The guardian acts on your behalf to oversee your medical needs and assets. Guardians are appointed through a court proceeding.
A guardian can only be appointed if:
- A medical professional or certified social worker determines you are no longer able to responsibly manage your medical or financial affairs due to your physical or mental health condition
- No other alternatives to guardianship exist
Guardianship is a last resort in Maryland.
What are some alternatives to guardianship?
There are alternatives to guardianship that Maryland law will prioritize before selecting a guardian through a guardianship proceeding.
One alternative is if you have appointed an agent to serve as power of attorney in your estate plan. Your agent has the legal authority to act on your behalf with regard to your financial affairs.
Your estate plan might also include an advance directive. In your advance directive, you can choose someone to serve as your health care agent. This person will make medical decisions on your behalf.
If you did not select your health care agent in your estate plan, the state will select someone to serve as surrogate decision maker for health care.
If you selected an agent to serve as power of attorney or a health care agent in your estate plan, these choices are preferred to guardianship as long as they are appropriate. A guardian fulfills an important role, and your selections are generally preferable to a court selection.