A guardian is a person the court appoints to protect and manage the affairs of someone who cannot do it themselves. An adult might have a guardian if they have a debilitating disease or condition that interferes with their decision-making ability.
Guardianship comes up in many situations relevant to family law and probate law. It is always best to discuss situations that might call for a guardian with a knowledgeable attorney, before the need for a guardian arises.
However, death and incapacity are difficult topics for many families and sometimes a person needs a guardian without much warning. A Coral Way guardianship lawyer can explain a guardian’s duties and help you design an arrangement that meets your family’s needs.
Powers of a Guardian
A guardian has the legal authority to act for someone else, called the ward. When the ward is an adult, courts strive to allow the ward as much autonomy as possible and limit the guardian’s authority to matters necessary to protect the ward’s wellbeing and property.
A “guardian of the person” can act on behalf of the ward on personal matters like entering and enforcing contracts, deciding where the ward will live, consenting to healthcare and mental health treatment, and similar issues. If an adult cannot manage their finances, the court might appoint a “guardian of the property” to handle their bank accounts and pay their bills. Sometimes one person is named guardian of the person and the property. In other cases, a ward will have only one type of guardian and keep their right to make other decisions.
The court will limit the guardian’s authority to only those tasks necessary to protect the ward and the guardian must get the Judge’s permission before taking steps like mortgaging or selling real estate that belongs to the ward. Guardians of the person and guardians of the property must submit regular reports to the court about the ward’s affairs. A Coral Way attorney can explain the court’s requirements and help a guardian comply with them.
Circumstances That Could Lead to Guardianship
Sometimes people recognize they need help and ask the court to appoint a guardian. An adult could seek a guardian if they receive a difficult diagnosis or notice that it has become difficult to manage their finances or make important decisions. The person might feel less vulnerable if a family member or trusted friend assumes guardianship of their property to protect their assets, ensure bills are paid, and handle other financial matters.
If an adult becomes incapacitated, another adult might petition the court to name a guardian for them. For example, if someone suffers catastrophic head injuries in a car accident, they might be unable to manage their affairs for months, years, or permanently. A friend or family member might apply for guardianship to manage the accident victim’s property for their benefit while they cannot do it themselves.
People sometimes lose their mental acuity and life skills with age. They might make irrational decisions, fall prey to scammers, or stop taking proper care of themselves. Sometimes they object to the appointment of a guardian. In an appropriate case, a Coral Way attorney can help a family secure guardianship despite the proposed ward’s wishes.
Process for Establishing Guardianship
According to Florida Statute § 744.3201, any competent adult could have another person declared incapacitated by filing a petition with the probate court. The court will appoint an examination committee consisting of three professionals who will interview the proposed ward. One of the committee members must be a medical doctor or psychiatrist.
The committee members conduct separate interviews of the proposed ward and each writes a report to the court with their findings. Depending on the conclusions the examining committee reaches, the Judge may appoint a guardian for the ward.
A person who decides to voluntarily seek guardianship of their property also submits a petition to the court stating they are currently mentally competent and choose a specific person to be their guardian. A Coral Way guardianship attorney could help an individual draft a petition for voluntary guardianship. The petition must include a letter from the petitioner’s doctor confirming the doctor examined them and found they understand the consequences of their choice.
Call a Coral Way Guardianship Attorney for Help Today
When someone does not have the mental acuity or physical capacity to look after themselves and their affairs, guardianship may be the answer. Asking a court to formally appoint a guardian ensures the court is supervising the guardian’s actions and providing protection to the ward.
If you are concerned about your ability to manage your affairs, or if you believe a loved one needs help, consult a Coral Way guardianship lawyer. The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm can talk you through the issues during a free case evaluation.