The issue of guardians in Florida is a common one with people creating estate plans, but can also affect people who never expected to talk to an attorney, much less suddenly find themselves in need of advice about what a guardian is and does. Today we begin a multi-part blog series on guardians in Florida to help explain key issues, and guide you through the legal process surrounding this important position. We’ll start the series with some frequently asked questions many people have about Florida guardians.
Guardians in Florida – What is a guardian?
A guardian is a person, or sometimes an organization, that has the legal authority to make decisions for someone who is legally unable to make choices. A legally incapacitated person, known as a ward, is someone who has had at least some of his or her decision-making abilities removed by a court. Because wards cannot make choices for themselves, they require guardians to make them on their behalf.
Guardians in Florida – Is there more than one type of guardian?
There are several types of guardianships possible in Florida. Courts are generally reluctant to delegate all of a ward’s decision-making abilities unless absolutely necessary, and will often appoint a limited guardian when possible. Limited guardians have the ability to make only specifically enumerated types of choices on behalf of a ward, such as making financial or health care decisions.
Plenary guardians, on the other hand, have the ability to make all decisions on the ward’s behalf. This includes financial and health care choices, but also choices about day-to-day situations, such as living arrangements.
There are also emergency temporary guardians, or ETGs. If a court finds that someone is in immediate danger and in need of a immediate action to prevent harm or ensure that person’s safety, it can appoint an ETG to make decisions on that person’s behalf. As the name implies, an emergency temporary guardian is a temporary appointment, though a court can extend the appointment or make the temporary guardian a permanent guardian.
Beyond, that, courts can also appoint co-guardians if they deem it appropriate. Co-guardianships involve two or more people, each of whom has the ability to make at least some decisions on behalf of the ward.
Guardians in Florida – How does a guardian get appointed?
Only a Florida court can appoint a guardian over an incapacitated person, and only after holding a hearing to determine if that person is legally incapable. Once the court finds that someone is incapacitated—by age or by any other reason—the court will appoint who it believes will best serve in the roll of guardian. The guardian, once appointed, has a legal obligation to act in the best interests of the ward.