Filing a Petition for Adult Guardianship in Maryland

One of the first steps in the Maryland adult guardianship process is filing a petition with a circuit court. If you’re preparing to file a petition for guardianship, you might have some questions.

Am I eligible to petition for guardianship?

According to the law, you must be an interested person to petition for guardianship. An interested person may include:

  • Someone nominated by the disabled person when they had sufficient mental capacity
  • The disabled person’s immediate family members (spouse, parents, adult siblings, children or other lawful heirs)
  • Health care agent or other government agencies

Where do I file the petition?

You need to file the petition with the circuit court in the county (or Baltimore City) where the disabled person lives (or, in some cases, where the person is hospitalized or where their property is located). The court will ask you to pay a filing fee.

Are guardianships of person and property filed in the same petition?

Usually they are, but they do not have to be.

What documentation do I need to file the petition?

Your petition must prove that the disabled person is unable to make responsible decisions and needs a guardian of the person or property. The petition’s content includes:

  • A description of the disability
  • The disability’s effect on the person’s ability to function
  • The reason a guardian should be appointed
  • Alternatives to guardianship that have been attempted and failed
  • Information regarding previously appointed guardians
  • A list of the disabled person’s assets
  • The disabled person’s attorney or a request for a court appointed attorney
  • Two certificates of disability from licensed health care professionals who have examined the person

File a Guardianship Petition with Less Stress

A petition that is incorrect or incomplete might cause your case to be delayed or dismissed. If you have questions regarding how to file a petition, then give us a call. Whether or not you have a lawyer, the court will require you to follow the same laws. We can advise you how to prepare a sound petition and how to navigate the various legal requirements of adult guardianship.

Maryland Adult Guardianship Process

If someone’s health condition prevents them from making decisions regarding their medical care and finances, they may need a court appointed adult guardian.

How to Become an Adult Guardian in Maryland

We routinely provide advice regarding the guardianship rules and processes. Here is an overview on how to become an adult guardian in Maryland.

Decide on guardianship type
As a petitioner, you need to determine if you are seeking to become guardian of the person, guardian of the property, or both.

File a petition
The petition needs to include two certificates that prove the alleged disabled person lacks the ability to make rational decisions regarding health or finances.


Appoint the attorney
If the disabled person doesn’t already have representation, then the court will appoint an attorney to act as their advocate.

Inform all interested persons
There is a deadline (usually 20 days) for all interested persons (including immediate family members) to voice any opposition regarding the initial petition.


Settle a contested guardianship
This step occurs only if there is any opposition or issues regarding who should be appointed as guardian.

Appoint the guardian
In a contested guardianship, the court will rank the contestants by legal standards and determine the guardian. If there is no opposition, the guardianship is considered uncontested.


Attend training
The guardian must attend mandatory training to learn their roles, duties, and responsibilities. Some courts offer classes, and some courts allow you to take the training online.

File an inventory
The guardian must file an inventory, detailing all of the disabled person’s assets.


Submit annual reports
On the anniversary of the date the court assumed jurisdiction over the person, the guardian must submit a yearly report. The court reviews the report and either accepts it and continues the guardianship or takes other appropriate action.

A Maryland Guardianship Attorney Can Help

We can guide you through the whole process of becoming an adult guardian, including filing the petition, representing you through the court hearings, and preparing the inventory of assets. The process to arrange an adult guardian can be complicated, but we are here to help.

Photocopy of Last Will and Testament

Last Will and Testament

What happens if I can’t find my dad’s original last will and testament?  Can I use a photocopy of his last will and testament?

There are problems in using a copy of a last will and testament.  Prior to about ten years ago, the answer was you could not submit a photocopy of one’s last will and testament.  But, tht changed in 2009.   Maryland Code Ann. Est. & Trust Sec. 5-802 allows one to submit a photocopy of the decedent’s last will and testament under certain circumstances.

What are the circumstances to submit a photocopy of the last will and testament?

The decedent heirs and legatees must provide their written consent that they accept the photocopy to be admitted to probate in lieu of the original.  It is important to note that “heirs” and “legatees” may be different people.  Heirs are individuals that would inherit if there was no last will and testament.  Legatees, on the other hand, are those individuals that are specifically named as beneficiaries in the last will and testament.

Here is an example of the problem in getting all to consent

Assume that dad’s original last will and testament could not be found.  In the photocopy of this last will and testament, he leaves everything to his two daughters who care for him in the last five years of his life.  His son, however, was left out of the last will and testament.  In this example, assuming mom has passed, the two daughters and son are the intestate “heirs” while the two daughters are the named beneficaireis – i.e. legatees. If the two daughters want to submit the photocopy of the last will and testament, they will need to obtain the signature of their brother.  But, of course in this example, thier brother may not want to sign the consent because if he does, he inherits nothing in the new last will and testamant.

 

Maryland Probate: You Can Do Post-Death Planning

Maryland Probate: after-death planning: last will and testament

Sometimes a proposed beneficiary distribution needs to be corrected after the death of a loved one.

Example 1: Grandchildren Born After the Will Was Signed

One common circumstance is when a grandparent’s last will and testament clearly indicates that all of her grandchildren will inherit an equal share. She names all of the grandchildren who are alive at that time. But what happens if the last will and testament is not updated to include grandchildren born after the will was signed? This would involve post-death planning.

Example 2: Estranged Beneficiary

Another example is when a beneficiary is estranged from the decedent and does not want to accept their distributive share. This would also involve post-death planning to perfect this particular beneficiary’s intention.

Addressing Post-Death Planning Concern

The post-death planning process is a tricky process. It often involves the cooperation of many, or all, beneficiaries of the estate and must be approved by the court. During our initial consultation, we help identify post-death planning concerns and create a plan to address those concerns.

Maryland Inheritance Tax

Maryland Probate: inheritance tax
The Maryland inheritance tax is what I like to call the “sneaky death tax.”

For many families, the imposition of the federal estate tax and the Maryland estate tax is not a practical concern, since these taxes only apply to multi-million-dollar estates. However, the Maryland inheritance tax is a 10% tax on all distributions to individuals who are not otherwise exempt. Here are some common questions regarding the Maryland inheritance tax.

How is the 10% Maryland inheritance tax invoiced?

For example, suppose the last will and testament leaves the decedent’s $10,000 diamond engagement ring to her favorite niece. Along with that engagement ring, the niece will also receive a $1,000 invoice for inheritance tax from the Register of Wills. The niece will need to pay the $1,000 in very short order; otherwise, she will be subject to hefty fees and penalties for not paying promptly.

Who is exempt from the Maryland inheritance tax?

There are many notable exceptions to the Maryland inheritance tax. Chief among them is that spouses and children of the decedent do not pay the inheritance tax.

Who is responsible for paying the Maryland inheritance tax?

If a beneficiary distribution is subject to Maryland inheritance tax, and if the last will and testament is silent, then the beneficiary is responsible for paying the inheritance tax.

What if the distribution is made outside of the probate process?

Here is the sneaky part. Even if the beneficiary receives the distribution outside of the probate process (i.e., inherited as a beneficiary as a payable on death account or through a trust), the beneficiary is still subject to this 10% tax! The way this information is captured through the probate process is that the personal representative is obligated to identify all transactions subject to Maryland inheritance tax by completing the Information Report.

How does the Law Office of Adam J. Roa help?

During our initial consultation, we help identify Maryland inheritance tax issues and develop a plan to address them.

We assist families and beneficiaries through the Maryland inheritance tax process by:

  • Identifying the inheritance tax payment obligation
  • Identifying when the tax should be paid
  • Determining if there is a need to file a Maryland application to fix the inheritance tax (This is necessary when the value of the asset is uncertain or fluctuates.)

 

Probate Creditors

Maryland Probate Law: creditors

Creditors are one of the more complicated parts of the Maryland probate process.

One of the core functions of a personal representative is to determine if there are creditors for the estate. Making a mistake regarding creditors is one of the few ways that a personal representative can be held personally responsible for a mistake made in probate administration.

Common Questions

Questions that we are often asked include:

  • How does the personal representative become aware of the various creditors?
  • Should the personal representative contact the creditors or potential creditors?
  • When should the personal representative contact the creditors?
  • Will the creditors sue the personal representative for not paying them?
  • What happens if there are not enough funds in the estate to pay all of the creditors?

Disputing a Creditor Claim

Another common issue is if the personal representative wants to dispute a creditor claim. There is a formal procedure for disputing creditor claims that needs to be strictly processed.

Tax Responsibilities

Taxes are another common issue. The personal representative has the responsibility to pay the decedent’s final income tax return. The personal representative also has the responsibility to pay the estate income tax return, as well as any federal and Maryland estate tax and any Maryland inheritance tax obligations.

Rely on Our Expertise

During our initial consultation with a family going through the probate process, we focus on creditors. We identify the creditors, provide insight into how to collect the needed creditor information, and help address the issue of fighting possible creditor claims.

After the personal representative is appointed and our firm becomes that personal representative’s attorney, our firm—and not the personal representative—becomes the focus for all would-be creditors.

Maryland Probate Process

At its core, the Maryland probate process is the court-required system designed to account for a deceased person’s assets, identify their creditors, and approve the distribution to estate beneficiaries.

For many families, this process can be overwhelming, and many people do not even know where to start. Here is a brief summary to guide you through the probate process.

Probate Process

Maryland Attorney Probate Process

1. Petition for probate

The first place to start is the petition for probate. This is the beginning of the process when the proposed personal representative asks the Register of Wills to accept them as the personal representative and accept the last will and testament presented. You would also need to identify all of the “interested persons” for the estate.

If there is no last will and testament, then the filing of the petition for probate may trigger what is called “judicial probate” and a hearing would occur to determine who amongst the interested persons should be personal representative. Unless excused in the last will and testament or agreed to by all interested persons, the proposed personal representative will have to post bond in order to serve as personal representative.

2. Identify the assets

After a personal representative is appointed, the next step is the more arduous task of identifying probate assets, securing probate assets, and then determining their value. This may involve hiring an outside appraiser.

If a personal representative does not know the whereabouts of the decedent’s assets, then a longer process is involved in an attempt to locate the assets. The personal representative also needs to open a probate estate account and complete a form—called the Information Report—to determine if there are Maryland inheritance tax issues.

3. Complete an administration account

Once the estate assets are identified and secured, the personal representative needs to account for estate expenses and income on a regular basis through the completion of an administration account.

After at least six months after the date of death (or six months after the appointment of a personal representative, if medical assistance is involved), then the estate may begin the process of closing by filing a final administration account. Common issues that slow down the closing process include the sale of the house or the filing of income tax, inheritance tax, Maryland estate tax, or federal estate tax.

Streamline the Process for Your Family

While this brief summary may give the impression that the probate process is straightforward, there are many potential issues at each step that can make the probate process more complicated.

Our approach is to work with the family to streamline the probate process. During our initial meeting, the goal is to identify any unique issues with the probate process for that client, identify paths to streamline the process, and develop a game plan to tackle the probate process.

Medicaid Cuts

Transferring Medicaid Costs From the Federal Government to the State

There is constant pressure from the Federal government to cut Medicaid costs.

One drastic solution is to push Medicaid costs from the Federal government to the State.

Instead of being treated as an entitlement program (i.e. if you are eligible then you will be covered), the block grant system will change Medicaid (i.e. Medical Assistance in Maryland) to a program that is funded if the state can afford it.

The bottom line is that less funds would be available for each state, Maryland included, which would mean potentially drastic cuts for Medical Assistance and likely large scale changes to determine who is eligible (i.e. based on stricter criteria).  It will also likely mean that even if a person qualifies, there may not be coverage because there are not enough funds to pay for coverage.   At this point in time, there is great uncertainty as to exactly what changes will occur.  But, there is no question that change is going to occur and that change will mean different more stringent criteria and likely denial of benefits because there are no remaining funds to pay for said services.

As there are new developments and clarity on the issue, I will place additional updates.

Possible Medicaid Changes

Medicaid Cost Cutting

One of the various changes proposed by candidate Trump was the idea of shifting Medicaid responsibility from the Federal Government to the States.  The rational proposed by Trump was that such a move would “maximize flexibility to states via block grants so that local leaders can design innovative Medicaid programs that will better serve their low-income citizens.”  As it currently runs, States, like Maryland, really heavily on Federal government support for Medicaid benefits for at risk groups, including seniors in nursing homes.  This proposal is not a new one.  It was first proposed by New Gingrich in 1995, then in 2003 by President George W. Bush and by House Republicans in 2011.  The practical effect to the States would be to reduce Federal funding and shift the payment responsibilities to the States.  The States in turn will either have to dramatically increase taxes to carry the extra burden or reduce reimburse rates to nursing homes, reduce what is covered under Medical Assistance, or likely restrict Medical Assistance eligibility.

As of right now, this is just a proposal.  If this proposal moves forward, I will continue to post the practical impact this will have on Maryland at-risk seniors.

Another Win!

We have another nursing home win! In this matter, the nursing home worked with the client (before we were hired) to file the Medicaid application for her disabled husband. Client knew little of what was involved with the Medicaid application and relied on the nursing home to complete the application and file it.  During the application process the nursing home kept on telling the client everything was fine.

After being denied twice for Medicaid and 9 months later, the nursing home gave the client a bill in excess of $100,000 and told her to pay it or else they would discharge her husband. In a move even bolder than that, in a moment of crises as he was being taken to the hospital, they literally had her sign a form as she was rushing out the door to the hospital. That form was an acknowledgement of discharge that could bypass all of the Federal and State regulations for discharge.

Next was the suit by the nursing home against client and her disabled husband in excess of $100,000. Never mind that it was entirely the nursing home’s fault that the nursing home application was denied, and the fact that client did not sign the nursing home contract, the nursing home and their attorneys still sued the disabled husband and client. We immediately filed a motion to dismiss and asked for sanctions. A few days before the motions hearing, the nursing home attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the matter (with prejudice) and paid our attorney fees. I would consider that to be a win!