Maryland guardianship laws ensure that an individual's basic needs are met, and his property is protected and used for his benefit. Thus, when a person can no longer make decisions regarding health care or finances -- because of a mental or physical illness -- you may seek guardianship. This is a legal process that entails taking care of all or part of the individual's decision-making process. In Maryland, seeking guardianship depends on a variety of factors.
Maryland guardianship law presumes an adult is competent to make decisions until proven otherwise. If an adult has a mental disorder or illness, that doesn't automatically make her incompetent to make decisions regarding finances or her health. Poor judgment or having eccentric tendencies also doesn't automatically lead a judge to believe a person needs a guardian. In Maryland, a judge who presides over a guardianship case must rule in favor of guardianship only when there is clear and convincing evidence of severe impairment of an adult's decision-making ability or incompetence.
Proof of Incompetency
To prove incompetency in a guardianship case, Maryland law requires the petitioner to submit evidence before a hearing. The petitioner must file two doctors' certificates, along with a guardianship petition. The certificates must include a list of the diagnosed mental and/or physical condition to verify that the individual isn't able to communicate or decide about his person or property. Maryland law also requires that at least one of the two physicians examine the person approximately 21 days before filing the petition.
Seeking Emergency Guardianship
An emergency guardianship can occur in two ways: through doctors or the court. For instance, Maryland law allows a physician to provide medical care to an incompetent individual without consent under two conditions: evidence of a substantial risk or further injury or a delay in treatment would cause harm. Obtaining an emergency guardianship happens the same way as a standard order through a petition. A judge, however, does not need two certificates from physicians, and a hearing occurs immediately -- possibly the same day. Proving the need for an emergency guardianship requires evidence of an emergency, a person's incompetency and no one else is available to provide consent.
At a guardianship court hearing, an individual's lawyer or judge may request that one or both of the physicians who provided certificates testify. An emergency temporary guardianship order lasts from 144 hours to six days in Maryland before it expires. To keep the order in force, a petitioner needs to return to court to prove that an emergency still exists.
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