Guardianship Law

Do I Need an Attorney to Obtain a Legal Guardianship Issue in Florida?

You cannot obtain a guardianship without the assistance of a lawyer in the State of Florida.  While you may be able to draft a will or represent yourself in court, guardianship is different.  

Guardianship involves a court-appointed person (or entity) who must make vital legal, financial, and medical decisions for another person.  Accordingly, the State of Florida requires the assistance of a guardianship attorney.  

Moreover, because of the complexities of guardianship matters under Florida law, you would not want to try to navigate those legal waters alone.  Particularly with regard to guardianships in Florida, a guardianship attorney in West Palm Beach will be able to make the process much, much easier.  

In this article, we will discuss the fundamentals of guardianships in Florida and why their complexity is a reason to have a guardianship attorney as part of the process.  In fact, guardianship law in Florida has recently garnered some headlines.

Recent Developments in the Guardianship System in Florida

Guardianship issues in Florida have been in the news lately.  Specifically, in November 2019, the Florida Governor’s Office included approximately $6.4 million to expand oversight of Florida’s professional guardians.  

The additional funds come in the wake of news stories about allegedly negligent conduct on the part of certain professional guardians.  Indeed, advocates for greater oversight of Florida’s guardianship system note that lapses in scrutiny over guardianship system has led to neglect and, in some cases, the death of seniors by virtue of that neglect.

Given how significant the issues are surrounding the guardianship system in Florida, it is that much more important that you seek the help of an experienced guardianship attorney in West Palm Beach before even beginning the process.

What is Guardianship?

The issue of guardianship comes into play when a person is rendered incapacitated.  For example, if someone is in a coma because of a car accident and cannot make decisions for themselves, then a Florida court has the authority to appoint a person, a guardian, to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person.  

With regard to how incapacitation is determined, a Florida court would appoint a committee, that includes medical professionals, to make an assessment following physical and mental health examinations.  

If a majority of the committee members determine that a person is totally or partially incapacitated, then the court will appoint a guardian to make decisions based on the level of incapacitation.

The person who is appointed to make the important legal decisions is called a “guardian” in Florida, and the person for whom the guardian is making decisions is referred to as the “ward” in Florida. 

Who Can Serve as a Guardian?

Any adult resident of the State of Florida may serve as a guardian to award in Florida.  That person can be related or unrelated to the ward. Also, relatives of the ward who do not live in Florida can serve as a guardian.

People who have been convicted of a felony, or who would be incapable of serving the functions of a guardian are excluded from being considered as guardians.   

Notably, while a guardian can be an individual person, you may be surprised to learn that an institution – such as a non-profit organization – can also serve as a guardian.  

The selection of a guardian is a very important matter.  That is because a guardian can be given full legal authority to make decisions about a ward’s financial assets and about his or her medical decisions. That is awesome power indeed and thus requires careful scrutiny.  

If a guardian has been appointed for your loved one or if you need an attorney in a guardianship proceeding, it would be wise to discuss the matter with an experienced guardianship attorney in West Palm Beach, such as the attorneys at Doane & Doane, to make sure that you fully understand the parameters of what the guardian is authorized to do.  

How is a Guardian Held Accountable?

While recent news reports indicate that more oversight of the guardianship system in Florida is on the horizon, the current system requires that guardians be represented by an attorney.  Also, guardians typically provide the court with a bond and are required to go through a court-approved training program.

Guardians also provide annual reports to the court with regard to their ward’s health and assets.  Those records must then be approved by the court.  

Doane & Doane Are the Go-To Attorneys for Guardianship Matters in Florida

We at Doane & Doane, P.A. have a team of experienced guardianship attorneys in the West Palm Beach area.  Because guardianship is a legal relationship relating to people named in a will or trust, you need a lawyer to properly advise you.  Doane & Doane can help.

When you are involved in a guardianship matter in the court system, the twists and turns on that guardianship journey can be confusing and may seem to never end.  Have no fear. Doane & Doane lawyers have a vast amount of experience handling guardianships and will be able to counsel you properly, so you can make the best decisions as a guardian.

Even though a guardianship of a minor and a guardianship of an elderly person are both called “guardianships,” they actually might involve very different rules and parameters depending on the circumstances.  With the assistance of a Doane & Doane lawyer, we can make sure that everything necessary and important for your particular guardianship is considered.

Without legal guidance, a guardianship might become too challenging and thus frustrate both you and the ward.  Avoid that altogether by having a Doane & Doane lawyer guiding you through the process.

Firm attorney and partner, Rebecca Doane, founded the Guardianship Education Committee of Palm Beach County in 1989 and until 2013, she served as the Committee’s Chairperson and was a mentor in the development of a tutorial course for potential guardians.  Her guardianship education course has become so successful that it is now required by the court system of Palm Beach County for any potential guardian.  It serves as the prototype for such courses in other counties in Florida. 

Given that we “wrote the course” on guardianships in Florida, our firm is the authority on Florida guardianships today.  Call us today for more information at 561-656-0200