Florida Guardianship Administration
Late in life, many seniors become unable to manage their own affairs. If a senior has become incapacitated and has not previously put in place the tools to allow someone else to manage their affairs (living trusts, power of attorney, health care proxies), a guardianship may become necessary to allow financial management of their affairs.
A guardian will assume control over the finances of the incapacitated person (known as the ward) as well as the “person” of the ward. A guardianship is a drastic remedy that removes decision-making authority from the ward and removes control that the ward previously had over the ward’s assets.
A relative or close friend can usually be appointed as guardian by the Florida probate court in the county where the senior is living. A professional guardian may also serve as guardian if no relative or friend is available.
In some instances, the senior may contest the guardianship, in which case a contested guardianship hearing may be held to determine whether the senior is capable of managing his or her own affairs. In other instances, particularly in the case of affluent seniors, more than one family member may petition for the guardian role. In such cases a contested guardianship hearing would be held to determine who can best serve as guardian.
In cases where someone has stolen from the incapacitated senior, whether directly or through the abuse of a power of attorney or jointly titled accounts, a guardianship can be used to attempt to recover the stolen assets, using the power of the judicial system. In these situations, the person abusing the power of attorney or otherwise abusing a position of trust will also have used undue influence to cause the senior’s estate plan to be changed. A guardianship case can be a good tool to gather evidence regarding the undue influence that may have been used to alter the estate plan. The guardianship may also be used to restore original beneficiary designations on financial accounts or otherwise restore the situation to that before the undue influencer was at work. In other more severe cases of elder abuse, including physical harm to the senior, emergency guardianships can be used to remove the senior from an unsafe situation. The guardianship can be a useful tool in such situations where the senior is in denial of the abuse and is unable to help herself or himself.
I handle guardianship matters throughout the State of Florida. Please call me, Jeffrey Skatoff, at (561) 842-4868 for your free consultation.