Central Florida Guardianship Attorney
A guardianship is a legal proceeding in which a guardian exercises the legal rights of a ward. It is started by filing a document asking the Judge to appoint someone to look out for the welfare of a ward (someone who can’t take care of themselves).
Why Establish a Guardianship?
A Guardianship is established to allow that a loved one will receive proper care by being under the supervision of an appropriate party to be able to make decisions for the ward. The Guardian will be contacted if the ward should leave a facility where they are housed. The authorities will be alerted to return the ward to the proper facility. Also, if there are assets that are in the ward’s name only such as a car or bank accounts, or if there is real estate, and if there is no valid power of attorney in force, then a Guardianship will be necessary to obtain access to those assets. If the person suffered an injury at work or as the result of someone else’s mistake, then in order to settle a claim or lawsuit a Guardian often must be appointed to make sure the ward is getting a fair deal.
The Eldercare Locator lists "10 warning signs" to help families and older Americans determine if help is needed. Has your family member:
- Changed eating habits within the last year resulting in weight loss, having no appetite, or missed meals?
- Neglected personal hygiene resulting in wearing dirty clothes, body odor, bad breath, neglected nails and teeth, sores on the skin?
- Neglected their home so it is not as clean or sanitary as you remember growing up?
- Exhibited inappropriate behavior by being unusually loud or quiet, paranoid, agitated, making phone calls at all hours?
- Changed relationship patterns such that friends and neighbors have expressed concerns?
- Had physical problems such as burns or injury marks resulting from general weakness, forgetfulness, or possible misuse of alcohol or prescribed medications?
- Decreased or stopped participating in activities that were previously important to them such as bridge or a book club, dining with friends, or attending religious services?
- Exhibited forgetfulness resulting in unopened mail, piling newspapers, not filling their prescriptions, or missed appointments?
- Mishandled finances such as not paying bills, losing money, paying bills twice or more, or hiding money?
- Made unusual purchases such as buying more than one magazine subscription of the same magazine, entered an unusual amount of contests, increased usage of purchasing from television advertisements?
- The Eldercare Locator is a public service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging
What is a Guardian?
A guardian is appointed by the court to care for an incapacitated person - called a "ward" and sometimes for the ward's assets.
How is a Person Determined to be Incapacitated
Any adult may file with the court a petition to determine another person's incapacity setting forth the facts upon which they base their belief that the person is incapacitated. The court then appoints a committee of two professionals, usually physicians, and a lay person to examine the person and report its findings to the court. The court also appoints an attorney to represent the person alleged to be incapacitated. If the examining committee concludes that the alleged incapacitated person is not incapacitated in any way, the court will dismiss the petition. If the examining committee finds the person to be incapable of exercising certain rights, however, the court schedules a hearing to determine whether the person is totally or partially incapacitated. A guardian is usually appointed at the end of the incapacity hearing. This is a different process entirely than the Florida Mental Health Act (commonly referred to as the Baker Act).
Who May Serve as Guardian?
Any adult resident of Florida can serve as Guardian, as can certain institutions. A close relative of the ward who does not live in Florida can also serve as guardian. Persons who have been convicted of a felony or who are so ill they can’t do the job cannot be appointed. If the family is able to agree on who should be the Guardian, the Court rarely rejects that choice.
How Long does the Process Take?
An emergency Guardian can be appointed in three to five days. Regular Guardianships take about a month to become finalized.
What does a Guardian do?
A Guardian who is given authority over any property of the ward must make a list of the property, invest it prudently, use it for the ward's support, and account for it by filing annual reports with the court. In addition, the guardian must obtain court approval for certain financial transactions, such as the sale of a house.
The guardian of the person may decide what medical, mental and personal care services are appropriate and determine the place and kind of residential setting best suited for the ward. The Guardian of the person must also present to the court every year a plan for the ward's care. As the Guardian’s attorney our attorneys help prepare all of the necessary documents.
Is a Guardian Accountable?
Yes. Guardians are usually required to furnish a bond, which our office obtains from an insurance firm specializing in such matters. The Guardian may be required to complete an eight hour court approved training program. The Clerk of the Court reviews all annual reports of Guardian of the person and property and presents them to the court for approval. A Guardian who does not properly carry out his or her responsibilities may be removed.
Will the Court Paperwork be in the Same City all the Time?
No, if the ward is moved to another County, usually the Court location would be changed to that County and all the paperwork would be transferred. However, this may not have an impact on the Guardian’s work since the Guardian may never have to physically go to Court, except at the beginning of the appointment.
Is the Guardian Liable for the Wards Debts?
No. Unlike the parent-minor child relationship, the Guardian does not have to pay the ward’s debts from the Guardian’s pocket.
Is Guardianship Permanent?
Not always. If a person recovers from the condition that caused him or her to be incapacitated, the court will have the ward reexamined and can restore some or all of the person's rights. A Guardian can resign and another family member could handle matters or possibly a professional Guardian could be appointed.
Contact an Orlando Guardanship Lawyer at NeJame Law
For additional information, please contact the law firm of NeJame Law for assistance. Our lawyers have the compassion and experience to handle fragile cases involving Guardianship issues. Contact us at (407) 500-0000. We have an emergency service 7 days a week. You may also contact us by e-mail at FamilyLaw@NeJameLaw.com or fill out the online form provided on this page. We will set up an appointment to talk to you more about how we can assist you in court.