Basics of Guardianships for Parents of Special Needs Children in Maryland
Here is the basic overview for parents of special needs individuals who are thinking about seeking a guardianship for their children or loved ones. As always, seek the advise of a competent attorney to discuss your specific situation.
General InformationParents make all the decisions for their child until the age of 18. Once a child reaches the age of 18, under Maryland law, they become adults capable of making their own decisions and choices as well as being held responsible for those decisions and choices. For parents of special needs children, this is an obvious problem. There is no automatic trigger that makes a "special needs" child still legally dependent on their parents. By default, at 18, they are adults. The best remedy to make sure that you are always in charge is a guardianship. All guardianships in Maryland are handled in the Circuit Courts, generally in the County in which the child resides.
Types of GuardianshipsThere are 2 types of guardianships: (1) guardianship of the person and (2) guardianship of the property. They can be sought individually or collectively. A parent of a special needs child may want to seek both or only one, depending on the individual circumstances.. Guardianship of the person allows the guardian to be in complete control of all decision-making regarding the care and need of the disabled person. Guardianship of the property allows the guardian to be in complete control of all of the financial dealings of the disabled person.
What Happens in CourtTo seek a guardianship, a petition must be filed in court providing all of the necessary information that is required. There must be two doctors' certifications that there is a disability, that it is permanent and that they are in need of a guardian. One of the certificates must be completed within 21 days of the filing of the petition. The court will appoint a lawyer to represent your child. The attorney is charged with investigating the situation to determine if, in their opinion, the best interest of the disabled person will be served by granting the guardianship. They will file an answer or report to the court indicating their position. The court will set the matter in for a hearing to make a final determination. If the attorney for your child does not oppose the request, you go to a hearing where the guardianship is usually granted. If the attorney opposes your request for whatever reason, then the court will generally schedule a hearing to determine whether a guardianship is needed.
What Happens Once AppointedOnce you are granted the guardianship, you will be required to file an inventory soon thereafter with the court if a guardianship of the property is ordered. That consists of all of the assets of the child. You will then have to file an accounting with the court each year thereafter as long as you are the guardian. You cannot simply quit being the guardian. Once appointed, you are the guardian with all the responsibilities and powers until the court removes you. You can, however, request to be removed or that the guardianship be terminated, depending on the circumstances. You can nominate and appoint successor guardians.