Florida’s Guardianship Process
Recognizing a friend or loved one is having difficulty with financial and daily life issues is not always easy. Nor is the acceptance they may need a guardian to responsibly protect their interests. People in these situations tend to hide such struggles as much as possible out of embarrassment and pride. Unfortunately, there are those that specifically seek to exploit these weaknesses for their own gain, and seniors are particularly vulnerable to scams that seek to take their money. To protect loved ones from these losses, families should consider establishing a guardianship – a court-supervised procedure that appoints a surrogate to handle a person’s financial and/or personal affairs when he/she is no longer capable. Guardianship sounds like a foreign and scary concept to most families, but working with a knowledgeable guardianship attorney will make this much easier to navigate, and less likely to produce an arrangement that will lead to additional family disagreement. An overview of Florida’s guardianship system, including the types of guardianship available, and how a court decides when a guardian is necessary, will follow below.
Voluntary vs. Involuntary Guardianship
Florida offers two options for establishing adult guardianships – voluntary and involuntary. People tend to assume that guardianships are always imposed on individuals unwillingly, but a person, assuming he/she is competent, always has the option to choose guardianship if there are concerns about his/her ability to handle essential life and financial matters. The person seeking a voluntary guardianship would need to petition the court for appointment of a guardian, and include documentation of their competency from a physician. Typically, a voluntary guardianship would give the person needing assistance more control over who the guardian is, as well as the extent of authority granted. The more familiar and common form of guardianship, though, is involuntary, which occurs when a person is declared incompetent and a guardian appointed to handle the person’s affairs to the extent determined necessary by the court.
When a Court Will Appoint a Guardian
Guardianship is a serious step that removes a person’s civil rights if established. Consequently, courts will only impose this level of intrusion on a person’s ability to conduct his/her life if the person agrees, or it is determined the individual no longer has the capacity to make his/her own decisions. To determine a person’s competency, an examining committee is formed, composed of physicians and psychiatrists who are charged with deciding if the individual is so impaired mentally and/or physically that making life decisions is no longer possible. Once a person is found to be incompetent, a declaration made by the judge after reviewing the examining committee’s findings, setting the amount of authority the guardian receives is the next step. A guardian may receive plenary authority – full power to make all of a person’s decisions related to finances, health, and daily life, or limited authority if the person still has some capacity to handle personal and property matters. The court, however, is directed to focus its grant of authority on finding the least restrictive arrangement, so the individual retains the fullest amount of rights possible. A guardianship attorney can advise on how expansive the loss of rights is likely to be, and how to effectively use this process.
Consult a Florida Guardianship Attorney
Guardianship is not an easy decision, but sometimes, a loved one needs help to keep them safe and financially secure. The attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. have decades of experience helping families navigate the complicated guardianship process with compassion and dedication. Contact the Fort Lauderdale law firm today for a free consultation.