Guardianship for Adults in Florida
When an adult person cannot make informed decisions about their own affairs, a court may need to step in and appoint a legal guardian. Florida law provides a process for those seeking such a guardianship to follow. The Law Offices of Travis R. Walker are among the state’s leading resources for those who need help securing the guardianship as well as current guardians seeking legal advice to ensure they are making decisions in their ward’s best interest. Trust our experienced attorneys to provide the solid representation called for in these often sensitive situations.
Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by Attorney Jeffrey Thomas
What is an Adult Guardianship?
A guardianship is a legal relationship in which one person – “the guardian” – is appointed to make decisions on behalf of another person – “the ward.” A guardian may be appointed for an adult ward who has a mental or physical impairment that prevents them from making their own decisions. In Florida, the circuit courts oversee the process.
Since guardianship requires a judicial finding that the alleged incapacitated person (AIP) is, in fact, incapacitated, the arrangement strips the AIP of certain rights. Therefore, a guardian cannot be appointed to act on behalf of an adult ward unless there is no less restrictive manner, such as a trust or a power of attorney, available to protect their interests.
Types of Adult Guardianship
Guardianship for disabled adults differs based on the scope of decision-making authority they carry.
A plenary guardian has broad authority to make all personal and fiduciary decisions on behalf of the ward.
Only certain rights are delegated to the guardian; the ward retains any other rights. Limited guardianships are either guardianship of the person (involving decisions about personal care such as healthcare) or guardianship of the property (in which the guardian makes decisions about the ward’s assets and real property).
How is a Guardian Appointed in Florida?
The process of legal guardianship for adults begins with a petition to the court. In some cases, a competent adult who is incapable of managing their own affairs will request the appointment of a guardian, leading to what is known as voluntary guardianship. More often, an individual files a petition in court to determine whether another individual is incompetent. The petition must meet strict requirements.
After filing, the court will appoint a committee of independent medical and mental health professionals. It will also appoint an attorney to represent the AIP and provide notice of the time and place of an incapacity hearing. The petitioner can present evidence of the AIP’s incapacity, while the AIP can present evidence, including evidence that there are less restrictive alternatives available. If the court determines that the AIP is incompetent, then it will appoint a guardian based on the scope of incapacity.
Who Can Serve as a Guardian?
In Florida, any adult resident who is “fit’’ and “qualified to act” may serve as a guardian. However, courts prefer to appoint a family member, and certain family members may be appointed even if they do not live in Florida. Professional guardians and institutions such as nonprofit social services agencies may also qualify to fill the roll. However, felony convictions may disqualify the appointment.
If you have concerns about a loved one’s ability to take care of themselves, it is worth speaking with an attorney about whether a guardianship is appropriate. If you seek appointment, you must be represented by an attorney and furnish a bond. An experienced lawyer can answer your questions and make sure you meet the statutory requirements.
How the Law Offices of Travis R. Walker Can Help
The guardianship process is often a stressful process, but there is help. Regardless of whether the guardianship has already been established, our legal team is prepared to provide counsel to those assuming this serious legal responsibility . Contact the Law Offices of Travis R. Walker, P.A. to work with a guardianship attorney in Stuart who can guide you through the process.
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