While a conservator has control over a person’s finances, a guardian has control over the “physical” well-being of a person. A guardian makes decisions for the person including decisions related to where to live, medical care, education, and day-to-day activities. Guardians can also be appointed as a Plenary Guardian in addition to being the guardian over the physical well-being of a person. “Plenary Guardian” means a person who has been appointed by the court to exercise all delegable legal rights and powers of the ward after the court has found that the ward lacks the capacity to perform all of the tasks necessary to care for his or her person or property.  Guardians can also be appointed for a minor or an individual who is unable to make decisions because of an impairment or incapacitation.

If you are considering a guardianship, call (561) 880-0155 to speak with a Florida guardianship attorney at the Law Offices of Paul J. Burkhart, PL. We understand Florida guardianship laws and how to petition the court for appointment of a guardian effectively. If you are an appointed guardian and need help, we can provide you with the guidance and legal advice you need as you carry out your duties as a guardian.

The Guardianship Process in Florida

When a person does not have legal documents to appoint someone to make decisions for that person in the event of incapacitation, the court will appoint a guardian for that person. Guardianship is also used when a minor child loses his or her parents, or the parents are unable to make decisions for that child for any reason. In addition, guardianships are used in situations where an adult with developmental disabilities cannot make decisions for himself or herself.

To be appointed as a guardian, you must file a petition with the court. The process can be very complex; therefore, we strongly urge you to contact our Florida guardianship attorney before filing your petition for guardianship. Once your petition is filed with the court, the court will begin the process to evaluate the proposed protected person (ward) and the proposed guardian.

The court appoints a committee to evaluate the ward to determine if that person can make decisions regarding his care and upkeep. The committee, usually two physicians and one lay person, examines the person and reports their findings to the court. If the ward is under 18 years of age, it is usually presumed the child needs an adult to make these decisions for him or her until the child is emancipated. The court also appoints an attorney for the ward to represent the ward’s legal rights during the process. If the committee finds the person can make decisions, your petition is dismissed. A hearing is scheduled to determine if the person is partially or totally incapacitated if the committee finds that the person is not capable of exercising some rights or making some key decisions.

If the court finds that the ward requires a guardian, the court will evaluate whether you meet the requirements to be appointed as a guardian. You must be an adult who has never been convicted of a felony. You must be mentally and physically capable of performing the duties of a guardian. The court may also consider any factor it deems relevant such as your ability to manage finances and your education that it deems necessary to protect the ward’s best interest. In many cases, if the ward’s family agrees on a guardian, the court will appoint that person to act as guardian if the person meets all legal requirements under Florida law to serve as a guardian.

Is a Guardian Accountable?

Yes, a guardian is held accountable for his or her actions. In most cases, a guardian must furnish a bond, complete an eight-hour court-approved training program, and furnish annual reports to the court. If a guardian is not performing his or her duties or fails in the responsibility to care for the ward properly, the court will remove the guardian and appoint a new guardian.

Furthermore, the guardianship can terminate upon a child reaching 18 years of age or the condition that caused the incapacitation is no longer causing an impairment that prevents the person from making decisions or caring for himself. In some cases, a guardian may need to resign. The court can then appoint a new guardian to care for the protected person.

Florida Guardianship Attorneys in Palm Beach County

If you believe that a loved one needs someone to care for his or her needs, the Law Offices of Paul J. Burkhart, PL can help. We understand the complex laws in Florida governing guardianships. We are also aware of the emotional issues that may be involved in declaring a loved one incapacitated. Our firm provides experienced legal representation in a compassionate and supportive environment.

Contact our firm by calling (561) 880-0155 to consult with a Palm Beach Gardens guardianship attorney. We represent clients in Palm Beach County, FL and throughout the surrounding areas.