“Guardianship” means that a guardian is appointed to make financial or personal decisions once an incapacitated person is no longer able to make those decisions. Once the guardianship has been adjudicated (a judge has made a formal decision), the person under guardianship is considered to be a “ward.”
When guardianship is necessary
Under Florida law, an adult guardianship is created once the court finds that someone lacks the mental capacity to take care of himself or herself or his or her property. If this incapacity impairs the person severely enough, a guardianship is granted. The court only takes this step if a less restrictive method, such as a trust or durable power of attorney, is found to be inappropriate or insufficient.
In Florida, two forms of guardianship are available. The first is voluntary. The adult who will become the ward decides upon the guardianship because they realize they are not able to manage their own finances. A voluntary guardianship can only be for the property.
Other alternatives to guardianship include health care surrogate/proxy or any other pre-need directive. Should a judge find that any of these alternatives fall short of what the person needs, a guardianship is the most appropriate method of managing the person’s affairs.
Types of guardianship
Forms of guardianship in Florida include:
- Guardian Advocate
- Plenary Guardian of the Person and/or Property
- Limited Guardian of the Person and/or Property
- Guardianship of a Minor
- Temporary Emergency Guardianship
A lawyer helps a family to decide which form of guardianship is the most appropriate for their family member’s needs. This procedure is only used to assist individuals who are not able to care for themselves or their assets. The family and lawyer discuss the areas where the person is no longer able to take care of his or her needs. These areas include taking care of healthcare needs, ensuring the person has clean, appropriate clothing, cooking and eating food, or taking care of the person’s home. Financial matters are another area where a guardian often steps in.