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Bethesda MD Family Law Blog

What is a "guardian of the property?"

Ask people in Rockville to define "adult guardianship," and you are likely to get a general consensus that the topic applies only to those cases where a disabled adult needs constant supervision over every facet of their life. In reality, however, there are different forms of guardianship. The state of Maryland does not take the decision to hand someone's decision-making powers over to another lightly. Instead, if such action is warranted, it prefers to make its extent as limited as possible. Because of this, the most common form of adult guardianship assigned by state courts is "guardian of the property." 

If you have a loved who, because of disability, mental health struggles, incapacitation or alcohol and/or substance abuse issues, cannot adequately manage his or her life, that does not necessarily mean they need a guardian to direct everything that they do. Rather, they may simply need assistance in protecting whatever resources they have available to them. In such a case, the court may appoint one to as guardian of the property. According to the Maryland Attorney General's office, this enables the guardian to perform finance-related functions such as: 

  • Buying and selling property
  • Retaining assets
  • Borrowing money
  • Paying bills
  • Negotiating with creditors

Student loans and your divorce

If you are like most people in Maryland who have gone to college, you graduated with not just a diploma but also with some student loan debt. If you are now facing a divorce and still owe on your student loans, you might assume that you will be forced to repay these loans on your own. On the flip side, if your spouse is the person with the student loan debt, you might assume that you will not have to be responsible for the debt after your divorce.

Your assumptions in either scenario may actually be incorrect. As explained by Student Loan Hero, there are many factors that go into determining which spouse may end up having to repay student loan debt after a divorce. For any student loan debt incurred before a marriage, the individual who took out the loans is commonly the person who must continue to repay those loans after a divorce.

How are guardians selected?

You may know an adult in Maryland, perhaps a member of your family, who is not competent to make decisions for himself or herself due to disability or incapacitation. The condition may have been present since childhood, or it may have occurred as an adult. It may be age-related or the result of head trauma or substance abuse. Whatever the circumstance, the court has to put legal matters pertaining to this individual into the hands of a guardian who makes decisions on his or her behalf in regard to health, education and finances. The legal term for an individual with a guardian managing his or her affairs is a "ward." 

What goes into choosing a guardian for an adult ward? According to FindLaw, the court takes several different factors into consideration. Where available, one of the most important considerations is the ward's wishes as expressed in a power of attorney or another legal document before the incapacitation took place. If no such document exists, the court prefers to choose a guardian from among the ward's family members or close associates, with parents and spouses highly favored. The court considers the candidate's ability to fulfill the responsibilities and duties involved in becoming a guardian, along with the following attributes:

  • Physical capacity
  • History
  • Character
  • Age (18 or older)

Does being rich increase your odds of divorce?

The leading cause of stress in Maryland relationships is money, so it would seem to follow that the better off financially you are, the less likely you are to divorce. However, according to CNBC, experts observe that when an economic downturn occurs and couples are more likely to have financial struggles, the divorce rate decreases, only to rise again once the economy is on the upswing. Due to the financial aspects of divorce, couples are unwilling to add a destabilizing factor to an already uncertain economic situation, but once the financial situation improves, couples may find themselves on firmer financial footing, and divorce becomes a viable option.

More money does not necessarily equal fewer problems within the domestic sphere. Having a high income does not preclude you from also having expenses, and some couples find themselves strapped for cash despite a high income, which can put a strain on the relationship. Another possible source of strain is the long hours and travel often required of a high-income job that can cut down on the earner's time spent at home with the family. 

When are your marital assets valued?

A great deal of time can lapse from the moment you and your spouse choose to separate to the date you are actually granted a divorce. Unresolved disputes, multiple complex issues to work through and even the availability of the court may cause your proceedings to be drawn out for months or even years. During that time, both you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse will no doubt begin to take steps towards moving on with your lives in Rockville. What happens, then, to the value of your marital assets during that time? 

Say that your spouse started their own business while you were married. In the time during which you were working through your separation and divorce proceedings, the value of the business increases significantly. Your spouse may argue that it was only after you had separated that the business began to take off, and as such, your interest in it should be determined off of what the company was worth at the time or your separation rather than its current value. 

Reviewing the powers granted to guardians

It is no doubt difficult to watch your loved one's physical and mental health deteriorate to the point of them becoming incapacitated. When such a point is reached, you understand the need for added assistance to ensure that they are cared for, yet seeing them lose their decision-making authority to another can be equally as difficult. A great deal of trust is placed in those who are named guardians, yet many in Rockville have come to our team here at Steven J. Gaba concerned that trust is being violated. You can only know this for certain, however, if you understand what authority an adult guardian is empowered with. 

Per Section 13-708 of Maryland's Estates and Trusts Code, an adult guardian is to be given no more authority than is necessary to provide for the demonstrated needs of their ward. Standard powers that are often given in such a relationship are the right to determine where the ward lives, and to use funds available from the ward's estate to see to said person's room, board, care, and education. The guardian must, however, exercise sound judgment in this so as to conserve whatever excess income they can for the ward's estate. In other words, your loved one's guardian should not intentionally be spending their excess money in the name of care if it is not absolutely necessary. 

Can teens choose which parent they want to live with?

In any divorce proceeding in Rockville that involves children will automatically place the needs and interest of the kids above all else. While determining what those needs and interests may be might require that court officials speak with the children themselves, oftentimes they will be based primarily on the opinions of others. You, your ex-spouse, family counselors and other professionals may offer input, but ultimately what is in your kids' best interest is decided by the judge in your case. The reasoning behind is due to the court not wanting to ask your children to make the difficult choice of choosing you over your ex-spouse (or vice versa). 

The fact that your kids (especially young children) may be at a stage in their lives where they lack the understanding and maturity to make such a decision. Yet what happens when they do? A better question may be at what age does the state recognize a child as being ready to offer a valued opinion? 

Why is the valuation date in your divorce important?

The moment that you and your spouse choose to divorce in Rockwell, the value of your marital assets suddenly becomes very important. Your opinions with how much your assets are worth may differ from those of your soon-to-be ex-spouse, which is why the court will often rely on independent parties to perform valuations during divorce proceedings. Yet more important than who is valuing your marital assets may be when they are valued. 

Why would the valuation date have such significance? Imagine that your spouse established a business (with your assistance) during your marriage. Given your role in getting the company off the ground, you may be entitled to an ownership stake in it. Yet if tensions between you and your ex-spouse are high enough, they could reasonably attempt to sabotage or neglect their business in order to keep you from profiting from it. 

High-asset divorce during the holidays

If you are getting ready for divorce as someone with a high net worth, there may be a variety of special considerations related to your circumstances that you will want to explore. For example, you may need to pay particular attention to some of the financial aspects of the divorce process, such as the division of your assets. Not only that, but you may have to work through other hurdles, especially during the holiday season. Some people want to move forward with their divorce regardless of the time of year, which is fine. However, it is always smart to prepare.

The holiday season can create a number of challenges for those who are in the middle of a high-asset divorce. For example, if you have kids and attend a family party, you may have to explain the situation to your children and to some of your family members. People often feel stressed out during the holidays for various reasons and you may be a business owner who is especially busy over the holidays. From issues with staff members to daily chaos due to heavy traffic, this can be a very demanding time of year in certain industries.

How can I create a solid parenting plan with my ex?

Co-parenting is rarely easy for families in Maryland once a divorce has taken place. However, creating a solid co-parenting plan is a step in the right direction, as it will provide a sound framework should you run into any disagreements. To ensure your parenting plan is a success, Very Well Family offers the following tips.

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