Can a guardian be paid for services after the ward has died?

Battley v. Banks (Md. App. December 20, 2007)

The Gatesman Law Office assists clients in the appointment of a guardian for persons who become incapacitated and cannot make personal or financial decisions for themselves. Guardians are entitled to be compensated for their services, but they must petition the guardianship court for approval of such compensation.

When the disabled person, called the “ward” of the court, dies, the guardian must prepare a final account of the ward’s assets. That account should include the guardian’s final request for compensation.

Whether the guardian may pay such compensation to himself out of the guardianship assets before the ward’s assets are turned over the personal representative of the ward’s probate estate depended on the county in which the ward resided. The courts in different counties applied different rules.

Now, however, the rule is clear. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals in Robert Battley, Personal Representative of the Estate of Dorothy Battley v. Michael G. Banks, has ruled that as soon as the ward dies, the ward’s assets become the property of the personal representative of the ward’s probate estate, or if none is appointed immediately, that the guardian must hold the property to be transferred to such personal representative when appointed. The guardian may not pay himself compensation for services even after the guardianship court approves such compensation.

Instead, the guardian must make a claim for the court approved compensation in the estate of the deceased ward. Such claim will be subject to the probate rules regarding payment of claims in the event the probate estate is insufficient to pay all claims.

This ruling imposes a uniform rule throughout the state of Maryland, effectively eliminating the differing treatment of the issue by the various local courts throughout Maryland.