Guardianship in Florida is a legal process designed to protect and assist people who are physically or mentally incapacitated, and are therefore unable to make decisions regarding their person or property, or both. The individual subject to a guardianship is referred to as a “ward”.
There are guardians of the person, the property, or both, as well as “guardian advocates” for those with certain developmental disabilities. A guardian can be a family member or friend, or a professional guardian properly licensed to handle guardianships in Florida.
The guardian is appointed by the Court in the County where the Ward resides, and is appointed to make decisions on behalf of the Ward in those areas where the Ward needs assistance. A Guardian may be appointed, for example, for an elderly adult with diminishing capacity, or for a minor who has inherited property. We carefully explore with our clients whether a guardianship is the most efficient and economical solution to a family’s challenges. Guardianship is a last resort in most cases, where less restrictive solutions are not feasible (such as a Durable Power of Attorney or Health Care Surrogate). Our attorneys can assist you with evaluating the alternatives to guardianship and reaching a result that puts the Ward’s best interest first.
The Guardianship Process
A Guardian must begin with a thorough court process to determine the capacity (i.e. competency) of a proposed Ward. That process begins with an examination of the proposed Ward by three medical professionals, as well as by court-appointed counsel for the Ward.
Guardianship of the property of a minor may be necessary when a minor receives property in their own name valued at greater than $15,000. In Florida, a parent is the natural guardian of their child’s property under $15,000. Oftentimes a grandchild inherits an amount that requires a guardianship to be opened. Our attorneys work with parents or other family members to establish and administer a guardianship for the minor until he or she turns 18, and thereafter to assist the family with the next steps once the guardianship is discharged.
Guardian Advocacy of a Developmentally Disabled Adult
When a child with a developmental disability turns 18, a parent can no longer legally make decisions for that child without becoming a court appointed guardian advocate. Guardian advocates function much like a typical guardian, but the process to become appointed is less cumbersome and less expensive. Our attorneys and staff assist parents and families with appointment as a guardian advocate, so that the parents or family may continue to make daily personal decisions on the developmentally disabled adult’s behalf.
Guardianship of an Incapacitated Adult
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, among other things, can slowly affect your parent or loved one’s ability to make decisions regarding their health and property. If a person has not executed a Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Surrogate, or if those documents are not enough to assist your family member with their daily tasks, then a guardianship may be necessary. Our attorneys closely look at the alternatives to guardianship and assist clients with navigating the many decisions and challenges that are presented when assisting elderly family members in their later years. We handle guardianship administration in Escambia, Santa Rosa and surrounding counties in Florida.