When you get to a point where you fear for your loved one's safety and the elderly individual has refused to relinquish their independence, you may be forced to take legal action. Caregivers encounter many challenges when it comes to ensuring the well-being of those dependent upon their care. The only way you can legally force someone to move into a long-term care facility against their will is to obtain guardianship of that person.
When a person is unable to take care of their personal or financial needs because of age, disease, or disability, the Maryland court may appoint a guardian. Most often a family member will initiate this proceeding and a lengthy court process will determine whether the person is capable of making sound decisions and caring for themselves. Most judges value the independence of an individual and will make sure to uphold those rights. However, if it is shown that the individual is a danger to themselves or others and other less restrictive precautions to ensure safety do not exist, the court will appoint a guardian.
The court will assign an independent attorney, called a guardian ad litem to represent the elderly person, known in this proceeding as the respondent. The petitioner, or person who initiated the preceding, is responsible for paying the filing fee and the cost of bringing the lawsuit. Often medical professionals with a specialty in determining mental competency will be included in the process to conduct an evaluation and provide a medical finding. If it is determined that the respondent is not competent and lacks rational decision-making capabilities then the court will appoint a guardian and make determinations as to how much authority the guardian has over the respondent, now referred to as the ward. The guardian’s authority is strictly defined by the court document and the guardian does not have the ability to operate outside of that authority.
Depending on the reach of that authority, the guardian may be able at this point to choose to legally move the ward into a long-term care facility if that would be considered in the ward’s best interests. For assistance in the process of becoming appointed a guardian or if you have a senior loved one who is no longer able to make sound choices, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Stouffer Legal.