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What are the responsibilities of a guardian?

Under Maryland law, when an individual is no longer able to take care of themselves, a guardian may be appointed by the court. This inability to care of one's self may come about due to illness, injury or mental disability. There are different types of guardians. A person can be a guardian of the property, which means that the disabled individual is unable to make decisions about their property. They might also be a guardian of the person, which means that an individual is unable to make decisions regarding their food, shelter or healthcare. Some situations allow the same person to be both, which means they have a generalized authority over the individual's care. A guardian is expected to always act in the best interest of the disabled person.

Actions that are within the authority of the guardian of the property include selling property, negotiating with creditors, paying claims, retaining assets and borrowing money. A guardian of the person has the authority to make decisions about the disabled person's clothing, shelter, food and health care. This includes consenting to healthcare treatments and treatments that sustain an individual's life. The guardian must secure court authorization before making a decision that poses a considerable risk to the disabled individual. An individual who is guardian of both property and the person has the same authority and responsibility as a parent does over their child.

If an individual does not have any friends or family that can serve as a guardian, then the court will appoint a public guardian. A public guardian may only be appointed as the guardian of the person and not as guardian of the property.

An individual who is going through the guardianship process might want to contact a family law attorney. An attorney may be able to provide information about the process and make their client aware of any legal rights they may have.

Source: Maryland Attorney General, "Guardianship", November 12, 2014

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