If you have a parent who is deteriorating physically and/or mentally, you may be forced to make the difficult decision to petition for guardianship over your parent. You may feel as though you are taking away your parent’s independence and autonomy; however, keep in mind that failing to intervene could result in your parent suffering a serious injury and/or falling prey to unscrupulous scam artists who prey on the elderly and disabled. For those who are unfamiliar with the adult guardianship process, a guardianship attorney at Kulas & Crawford discusses how to decide when guardianship is necessary and what the process is to become a Guardian.
How Do I Know When Guardianship Is Necessary?
There is no easy way to determine when guardianship is necessary. As an adult child, it can be extremely difficult to acknowledge that a parent is no longer capable of making decisions and/or managing finances. The reality is though that the longer a parent lives, the stronger the likelihood that he/she will succumb to the physical and/or mental deterioration that accompanies the natural aging process. When you add to that the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s, or another age related form of dementia, the need for someone to step in to prevent injury or harm increases dramatically. Ultimately, only you can decide when it is time to petition to become your parent’s Guardian; however, some common signs that should cause you to consider the need to step in and evaluate the need for a Guardian include:
- Frequent, unexplained injuries
- Injuries that are increasing in severity
- Unpaid bills when the funds are available to pay the bills
- Money missing from accounts without an explanation
- Items missing from the home
- Missed doctor appointments without explanation
- Medication not being taken as prescribed
- Memory loss that exceeds normal aging
- Deteriorating hygiene
- Unexplained weight loss
- Basic household chores being neglected
- Mood swings
- Periods of confusion
Guardianship in Florida
Guardianship laws, as well as the process required to become a Guardian, are both governed by state law. In the State of Florida, there are three primary types of guardianship:
- Guardian of the person – as a Guardian of the person would be legally authorized to make decisions relating to personal matters and daily tasks involving the Ward. Some common decisions a guardian might make include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Where the ward will live.
- What physician will treat the ward.
- Whether or not the ward continues to be allowed to drive.
- Who may have contact with the Ward
- Guardian of the estate – as a Guardian of the estate, you would be legally authorized to make decisions relating to the estate and finances of the Ward. For example, you might be able to decide:
- Whether or not to sell an asset
- Which bills to pay
- Whether to purchase stocks or other securities with the ward’s investment account
- Whether to enter into a contract in the Ward’s name
- Guardian of the person and estate – as Guardian of thee person an estate you would have the powers granted to both a Guardian of the person and a Guardian of the estate
How Do I Become My Parent’s Guardian?
Because guardianship is the most restrictive option, you must convince a judge that a Guardian is, indeed, necessary in order to protect your parent. The process begins with the filing of a petition with the appropriate court. Both your parent and close family members must be notified of your request for guardianship. A hearing will be scheduled at which time you must present sufficient evidence and/or testimony to convince the court that guardianship is warranted. If the judge agrees that guardianship is necessary, the Court will then consider your request to be the Guardian. If the court grants your petition, the court will explain the bounds of your authority over your parent and/or your parent’s estate based on what the court determines is necessary to protect your parent and/or his/her assets.
Contact a Port St. Lucie Guardianship Attorney
To learn more, please download our FREE solid estate plan checklist. If you have additional questions or concerns about petitioning for guardianship, please contact an experienced Port St. Lucie guardianship attorney at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to discuss your legal options.