The Who, What, Where and How of Guardianship


Guardianship is a court proceeding where an individual is
appointed to assist a person who is no longer able to manage their assets, make
living arrangements or make medical decisions. A guardian must be appointed if
the person did not designate an agent with a Durable Power of Attorney; or will
not allow the designated agent to assist them when the need arises.  


While it is preferable to avoid guardianship as the court
process is time-consuming, expensive and subject to rigid statutory and
procedural requirements sometimes it is the only protective procedures
available to protect an individual from themselves or others. The process can
cause trauma to an elderly person because that person is declared legally
incapacitated and will lose the right to personally exercise some or all of
their civil rights.


Many times however, a guardianship proceeding is unavoidable
and the family or a well meaning friend must ask the court to appoint (through
their attorney) a legal guardian for the person. The process takes
approximately one month in Lee County. This varies by county. If there is an
immediate concern that the individual might be taken advantage of or is not
able to care for themselves, then an emergency guardian can be appointed.


Once the guardian is appointed, there are many laws that
must be adhered to because the guardian is now responsible for the personal and
financial well-being of the ill person. Reporting on the assets of and the
medical condition of the ill person is required every year and certain actions
cannot be taken without the approval of the court.


If it is necessary to proceed with a guardianship
proceeding, it is important that an attorney who has experience in representing
families filing guardianships assist you with the legal process. Florida state
law requires that Attorney and Judges in the Guardianship field attend specific
classes about this action.


Professional Guardians are those persons in the state of
Florida licensed, certified and bonded per statute to act in this capacity.
They take continuing education to maintain their licenses.


This article submitted by Beverly A. Duff,
Professional Guardian, Argus Guardians, 239-278-3733