Who guards Florida professional guardians?
What is a professional guardian?
The Florida Statutes define a guardian as “a person who has been appointed by the court to act on behalf of a ward’s person or property, or both.” A Ward is “a person for whom a guardian has been appointed.” Guardians can be appointed as “limited” or “plenary.”
A limited guardian is appointed by the court to exercise the rights of the ward specifically designated in the appointment court order, where the court has found that the ward lacks the capacity to do some of the tasks necessary to care for themselves, or after the person has voluntarily petitioned for the appointment of a guardian.
A plenary guardian is appointed by the court to exercise all rights of the ward after the court has found that the ward does not have capacity to perform all of the tasks necessary to care for themselves.
Generally, a professional public guardian is appointed to individuals who: (i) do not have sufficient income or assets to appoint a private guardian; and (ii) do not have any willing family member or friend to serve in such capacity.
In Florida, the state agency in charge of the registration process of professional guardians is the Office of Public and Professional Guardians (the “OPPG”) of the Department of Elder Affairs. The registration application process includes a course, examination, credit history check, and requires the aspiring guardian to obtain a $50,000 blanket bond.
The OPPG is also in charge of investigating complaints against professional guardians as well as taking disciplinary actions when deemed appropriate. However, the OPPG has been under fire recently. Allegedly, the agency has not properly addressed complaints of public guardians misconduct. Complaints include allegations of neglect and abuse against wards as well as filings of unauthorized “do not resuscitate orders”.
Concerns about the proper handling of these complaints as well as the perceived need to tighten the requirements for the appointments of an individual as a public guardian, resulted in the drafting of a new bill. Senate Majority Leader Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples submitted a bill, proposing revisions to the guardianship provisions of the Florida Statutes. Among other changes, the new bill: (i) expands factors for a court to consider when appointing a guardian; (ii) revises the requirements for a petition for the appointment of a guardian; and (iii) prohibits professional guardians from petitioning for their own appointment except under certain circumstances and from taking certain actions on behalf of an alleged incapacitated person. The bill was signed into law by Governor DeSantis and became effective as of July 1, 2020.
A lawyer with experience in guardianship matters can assist in interpreting these changes. If you or a family member has concerns about the conduct of a professional public guardian, or would like more information, contact the Fort Lauderdale probate & guardianship lawyers at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. at 954-467-6656 or visit us online to schedule a free consultation.