In courts throughout the country, it is common for guardians to be appointed to assist with both the personal and financial assets of those who are the most vulnerable in our society. Whether it is due to illness, age, or disability, guardianship laws are in place so that a guardian can help protect an individual (or organization) from harm when the individual cannot make decisions for himself.
That being said, guardianships can lend themselves to abuse. In many jurisdictions, abuses in the guardianship process have resulted in a number of investigations. Some of the abuses include mismanagement of funds, lack of proper notice to the relevant parties regarding court proceedings, and even theft of assets.
Investigation by the Senate Special Committee on Aging
The abuses with guardianships have gotten to such a point that they prompted a probe by the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. The Committee sought to investigate guardianship issues, and to find workable solutions.
Just a few months ago, the Committee on Aging reported its findings following a one-year investigation that included testimony and evidence from advocates and experts from across the country. According to the Committee’s findings, about 1.3 million people are under guardianship in the U.S. and about $50 billion are held in guardianship accounts.
Noting that, in a number of jurisdictions, guardians have very little oversight and there is evidence of financial abuse, the Committee made several recommendations, including:
- Mandatory background checks for guardians,
- Encouraging judges to consider less restrictive options before ordering full guardianships,
- Increased supervision of guardians,
- Allowing individuals who need the help of a guardian to retain some powers over their personal and financial assets,
- Allowing a guardian for financial matters, but not personal ones, and
- Having better data collection so courts can better monitor guardians working in the system.
Many of those recommendations have also found their way into a bill that was introduced by Senators Bob Casey and Susan Collins called The Guardianship Accountability Act. Under the Act, all States would be required to report all guardianships; background checks for guardians would be mandatory; and the bill would enhance monitoring, collaboration, and uniformity of guardianship laws across the country. It remains to be seen if the legislation becomes law, but it is an important regulatory step in a very challenging area.
Why Is Guardianship Such a Challenging Area?
A guardian is a person appointed by the court to exercise the legal rights of an incapacitated person, also called a “ward.” In Florida, the process is governed by Chapter 744 of the Florida Statutes. A guardian can be an individual or an institution (such as a non-profit organization) who cares for a ward’s assets, both personal and financial.
Guardianship is a challenging area because the stakes can be life or death when a person is charged with protecting another person’s financial and personal needs. It is not uncommon for a guardian to reach out to a court for advice on how to assist if a ward has a significant health issue, or on how to best manage a ward’s finances.
A guardian must make decisions from the major to the minute. Those decisions can be for things ranging from the sale of real estate, to giving consent for flu shots, to handling requests for new clothing.
With the findings of the Committee on Aging now out, it is clear that the elderly and disabled population need better care from the professionals charged with carrying out guardianship duties, and
You Need Experienced Guardianship Attorneys in West Palm Beach, and Doane & Doane Has that Expert-Level Experience
The law firm of Doane & Doane, P.A., employs an experienced team of guardianship attorneys in West Palm Beach who will be able to assist you in every aspect of guardianship matters. Given that a guardianship is a legal relationship between a person named in a will, trust, or petition with the court to care for either minor children or adults who have been deemed incompetent to care for themselves, a seasoned attorney is an invaluable part of that legal relationship.
When the court system is involved with a guardianship, the journey from start to finish can be long and confusing to the lay person. Let the guardianship attorneys of West Palm Beach at Doane & Doane, P.A. help in these matters. We are experienced with this type of law. We are ready, willing, and able to assist the guardianship client through the labyrinth of proceedings which will result in a successful relationship for all concerned.
Depending on whether the guardianship relates to a minor child or an incapacitated adult, the laws and paperwork for each area are very specific regarding the relevant duties, responsibilities, and powers of the guardian. The court is quite often the “supervisor” of the guardianship and the particulars are expected to be followed closely. The assistance of the legal team at Doane & Doane, P.A. can make the navigation of those procedures easy to facilitate.
Without proper assistance, guardianships can become frustrating for both the guardian and the ward. We, at Doane & Doane, P.A., are ready to assist in every facet of a guardianship. We know the laws of the State of Florida as they pertain to such situations, and we are prepared to assist along the way so that the guardianship of a loved one becomes the answer to a prayer rather than the reason for a prayer.
Firm attorney and partner, Rebecca Doane, founded the Guardianship Education Committee of Palm Beach County in 1989. 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 is 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.
We are a primary resource for any guardianship being considered in Palm Beach County, surrounding counties, or the State of Florida. So, contact the authority on guardianships today. You can reach us at 561-656-0200. Call us today to help you with this most delicate area of the law.