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Florida Guardianship Law: Appointing Protectors for the Young and Old

When a person is no longer able, or not yet old enough, to handle his or her own financial affairs and other serious matters, Florida law provides for the legal appointment of a guardian. Knowledge of a few basic.htmlects of guardianship law can help an adult child, extended family member or other interested party assess whether it is time to consult with a Florida guardianship attorney.

Guardianship is a flexible concept under Florida law, and the legal authority granted can be tailored to the unique circumstances of every case. The broadest distinction is between plenary and limited guardianships. A plenary guardianship can provide broad control over both the person and his or her estate, while a limited guardianship grants only those decision-making powers detailed in the court order.

The types of powers that a guardian commonly undertakes on behalf of a ward cover a variety of important areas. With respect to the person, the list of powers includes the ability to:

  • Determine the ward's residence
  • Release confidential information
  • Decide on the course of medical treatment, counseling or educational opportunities
  • Make end-of-life decisions (such as those alternatively provided for in a living will)

The guardian can also be granted fiduciary authority over the ward's estate to make such decisions as:

  • Distributing assets to support the ward
  • Paying debts and other obligations
  • Receiving any income to the ward from insurance, investments and other sources
  • Determining eligibility and pursuing benefits

These lists are by no means exhaustive, and an individual should explore all legal options for the care of an incapacitated person. Guardianship is a major decision, and a Florida probate lawyer can explain the benefits of less comprehensive alternatives such as powers of attorney, living trusts, joint tenancy and home health services.

One common concern for parents is the ability to designate a trusted person as the guardian of minor children or adult children with special needs if both parents die. An attorney with experience drafting pre-need guardianship designations can help clients formalize their wishes, including advance designation of their own guardians in the event of unexpected incapacity.