Bel Air & Dundalk Guardianship Lawyer
If you need an adult guardianship attorney in Dundalk, Bel Air, Owings Mills or Downtown Baltimore, ROB GOLDMAN LEGAL SOLUTIONS is the law firm Marylander’s turn to for calm, sensible advice and Peace of Mind.
When Is Guardianship Appropriate? A guardianship order essentially strips away a person’s legal right to make decisions for oneself and should be used only as a last resort. There are many different circumstances in which guardianship may be an option. If someone you care about suffers from cognitive impairment and is unable to make rational decisions regarding his or her business affairs or health care, or needs assistance with two or more activities of daily living, a guardianship might be appropriate, but not necessarily.
Standard of Proof. A court requires clear and convincing evidence of incompetency before issuing a guardianship order, and may order guardianship of the person, the property or (typically) both.
Maryland Surrogate Caregiver Statute. This statute was passed to make it easier for family and close relatives to help and represent an elderly person in certain matters without having to obtain a court order. You can google this statute and see what it enables you to do. This statute does not authorize someone to handle another person’s financial affairs, transfer real property and enter into certain legal transactions.
Power of Attorney. A Power of attorney is not an option if the mentally impaired person does not meet the legal standard. Don’t assume, talk with an Elder Law attorney. A guardianship order may not be necessary if the person appointed an attorney-in-fact to handle financial, business, and healthcare decisions. However, many powers-of-attorney are not designed to meet the legal and practical needs of seniors, or the senior may not be willing to accept that the time has come to allow the appointed attorney-in-fact to act on his or her behalf. Many seniors fail to get around to taking care of their estate planning needs and by the time a an adult child tries to step in to help have this done, lack of mental capacity may preclude the senior from signing a power-of-attorney or making a Will. Since an attorney-in-fact is an agent of the senior, the senior always has the right to terminate the agency relationship, unless no longer legally competent, – a decision typically to be made by a court.
Cognitive impairment usually occurs gradually and one has to be alert to changes in behavior. Symptoms include, for instance, a decline in the person’s attention span, ability to consider issues, memory, disorientation, wandering off, getting lost, use of language, mathematical ability, and ability to follow directions are some of the key indicators of a decline in mental capacity. Other indications may include weight loss and problems with walking, falling, and incontinence. It is also important to consider the effect of medication, pain, stress, depression, and poor nutrition in evaluating whether the person is indeed suffering from cognitive impairment.
The senior should be examined by a physician that specializes in geriatrics and neurology to assess physical and mental well-being. Sometimes, a psychologist or psychiatrist’s evaluation may be needed. In cases where the senior is cooperative and no family dissension is anticipated, an elder law attorney’s assessment that the senior has adequate mental capacity may be sufficient for the senior to proceed with signing legal documents. The closer the call the more likely it is that the attorney will require a medical examination and mental assessment to move forward.
Mental incapacity is not the only basis for obtaining a guardianship order. A senior may pass a mental capacity assessment yet not be able to make rational decisions regarding his or her well-being. Conduct that substantiates concerns that the senior’s health, safety and welfare may be at risk, particularly when the person is frail or has other physical problems and is unable to manage his or her affairs without assistance, may satisfy a court that guardianship appropriate in a particular case.
Everyone, especially individuals over the age of fifty, should have their basic estate planning documents in place. Seniors and those who love them who have a concern regarding planning for disability, quality of life planning, maintaining one’s independence for as long as possible, asset protection planning, planning for the possibility of assisted living and long-term nursing home care, and financial assistance from Medicaid, should invest in a comprehensive consultation to obtain a professional legal evaluation and explanation of one’s rights and options.
Managing Disagreements in the Family Over a Parent’s Care Needs. Ironically, it is often the family members who do the least who object the most, and the person who does the most is unappreciated and under tremendous stress. Sometimes, the problem is due to personality, or self-interest, but often-times there is real caring but a lot of misunderstanding and miscommunication due to past resentments and so forth. A caring, experienced Elder Law attorney may be able to resolve competing concerns and interests.
Financial abuse of seniors and physical abuse of the frail elderly is a growing problem. If you see warning signs, get legal guidance promptly. One the greatest reasons elder abuse occurs and gets worse is that family members want to avoid conflict, don’t want to get involved, or just don’t pay attention. Nip this behavior in the bud by acting fast!
If you’d like to learn more about guardianship law, please check out our Guardianship Frequently Asked Questions page.
Contact us now to inquire about our guardianship legal services.