Guardianships Protect Vulnerable Loved Ones
When a loved one needs help making decisions or taking care of their finances, you want to help. Florida laws don’t allow just anyone to step in and start making decisions for another adult, however. You must have permission to help. If your loved one created a durable power of attorney or a health care advance directive, they may have named you as an agent to make decisions now that they need help. If they did not, you may need to pursue guardianship through the court system.
At Law Office Of Douglas A. Oberdorfer, P.A., we understand that the decision to file for legal guardianship is a difficult one to make. Family members may even disagree over whether guardianship is the right step, or who should serve as guardian. We can explain your options, walk through the process and help you figure out the best path forward for your loved one.
Requirements For Guardianship In Florida
In Florida, the probate court reviews petitions for guardianship. For adults, the courts view guardianship as a serious intrusion on a person’s civil liberties and will only apply it if no other options are available. Once the court applies for the guardianship, the subject is known as a “ward.” Generally speaking, guardianships apply in three circumstances:
- Minors: If a minor has no living parents or their parents have had their parental rights removed, they need a legal guardian to care for them. In some cases, a minor may also need a guardian to oversee a large inheritance.
- Adults with a disability: Most often, these cases involve adults with mental disabilities who don’t have the capacity to care for themselves. Occasionally, they involve physical disabilities. If they can perform some tasks for themselves, but not all, they may receive a plenary adult guardianship.
- Older adults with diminished capacity: These are the cases where someone who once had full capacity is slowly losing that ability due to health issues. If they did not arrange for an agent to make decisions on their behalf using a power of attorney or advance directive, they will need a guardian.
The probate court oversees the guardianship, from appointment to the end of the guardianship.
Voluntary Vs. Involuntary Guardianship
Because of the civil liberties issues involved, proposed wards have the right to object to their guardianship. These cases are considered involuntary guardianships. They may not feel that they need assistance. In other cases, however, the proposed ward knows they need help and will work with the court and their guardian to create a guardianship that meets their needs. This is considered a voluntary guardianship.