Perhaps you know someone who needs extra help with their personal or financial affairs, and have heard others talk about becoming a guardian for an ailing relative or a disabled family member. People that might need guardianship include those with dementia, Alzheimer’s, disabilities, or chronic illness. Read the article below for more information about what guardianship entails and what it means for you as the guardian.
What is a guardian?
A guardian is appointed by the court to make personal and/or financial decisions for an adult that has been determined by the court to be unable to manage their own affairs. This person is referred to as the “ward.” Before appointing a guardian, the court must first make a determination that the ward is so incapable of handling his or her own affairs that the right to handle his or her personal or financial decisions should be taken away and given to another person. Guardianship is an extreme measure and securing one should only happen when “no less restrictive alternative” is available.
A guardianship can be either “limited” or “plenary.” In a limited guardianship, the guardian assumes only the ward’s rights that are specifically granted by the court. A plenary guardianship grants the guardian control over all of the ward’s rights. The rights that can be divided into personal and property rights. For example, personal rights may include making decisions about medical treatment and the ward’s social environment. Property rights include contracting, maintaining or defending lawsuits, and applying for benefits.
Who may be a guardian?
Any “competent adult” that lives in Florida may serve as a guardian. A non-resident who is directly related to the ward is also eligible. Courts may also appoint a “professional” guardian, such as a bank or corporation to act as a guardian of certain property. Anyone convicted of a felony or abuse and certain other crimes cannot serve as a guardian.
When is a guardianship appropriate?
A guardianship may be appropriate only when a person has the inability to care for him or herself or affairs that cannot be assisted through other alternatives. There are other options for assisting an ailing relative or mentally disabled person, such as through a power of attorney or health care surrogate, that are less restrictive on the person’s liberty. These options should always be considered first, and the court must determine that there is no less restrictive option than guardianship before it can take away a person’s rights. Additionally, a limited guardianship is always preferred over a plenary guardianship.
What is required after you are appointed guardian?
An appointed guardian must complete a training course within four months of appointment, and also must file reports with the court regarding the affairs of the ward. These include an initial plan detailing plans for the ward, an annual report of the ward’s condition, an inventory of the ward’s property, and an annual accounting.