Our Senior Partner, Jill Ginsberg, focuses a majority of her practice on protecting some of the most vulnerable members of society from abuse and exploitation. She does this through the Guardianship process. When many people hear the term “Guardianship,” they think of guardianships of minor children, but that is only one type of “guardianship”. Jill’s focus is on adults who can no longer take care of themselves and may need protection from abuse or exploitation.
For families and friends with a loved one who needs assistance and protection due to their physical ailments or mental incapacity, the attorneys at Ginsberg Shulman stand ready to establish a guardianship that provides them with the ability to do so. We know how difficult it can be to watch a once-vibrant, active, and intelligent family member lose their faculties and ability to live independently. We also understand the decision to seek the legal protections of Florida guardianships, however necessary, is a profoundly personal and emotional one. The process can be even more taxing if the loved one resists the well-intentioned efforts to help them.
That is why we work so closely and compassionately with those trying to protect a loved one using the tools provided by Florida law. Our Senior Partner, Jill Ginsberg, focuses most of her practice on guardianships, using her knowledge, insights, and experience to protect the most vulnerable members of society from abuse and exploitation. We will explain the guardianship process, answer all of your questions, and address every concern so you can have the peace of mind that comes from knowing you are doing the right thing the right way.
What Is a Florida Guardianship?
With the proper guardianship attorney and timely estate planning, you can appoint someone of your choosing to handle your affairs and make healthcare decisions for you when you can no longer make them for yourself. You can do so by appointing an agent or attorney-in-fact under a Durable Power of Attorney to manage “checkbook” and other personal matters and a Health Care Surrogate for medical decisions.
But when a person becomes unable to manage their affairs without having prepared those documents, Florida law provides a mechanism through which a family member can have a loved one declared legally incapacitated. That designation allows for the appointment of a guardian charged with managing the individual’s financial affairs and medical care.
A “guardian” is an individual or entity (such as a corporate trust department) appointed by a court to act on behalf of a legally incapacitated person. An institution that serves as a guardian can only be granted authority over the individual’s property, not their person. If the person who is the subject of the guardianship petition objects to being declared incapacitated, the judge can consider their perspective as expressed in a written declaration or at the incapacity hearing.
Establishing a Florida Guardianship
For obvious reasons, declaring someone legally incapacitated and taking away their control over their own life is not something Florida law or Florida judges take lightly. Before a court rules that an individual is incapacitated, the person seeking to establish the guardianship must provide substantial proof and satisfy several steps so the judge can make a fully informed decision.
Here’s how the process for determining legal incapacity works in Florida:
- An adult, usually but not necessarily a relative, files a Petition to Determine Incapacity with the court.
- After the petition is filed, the judge will also appoint an attorney to represent the alleged incapacitated person (AIP).
- A judge will then appoint a three-person examining committee to evaluate the AIP’s condition. The committee always includes a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a social worker.
- The examining committee members will conduct a physical examination, a mental health evaluation, and a functional assessment of the AIP. Each member submits a report to the court containing their independent findings and conclusions.
- If two of the three committee members conclude that the AIP is not incapacitated, the judge will dismiss the petition.
- If, however, a majority of the examining committee concludes the AIP cannot exercise certain specified rights or manage specific aspects of their affairs, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether they are totally or partially incapacitated.
If the judge rules that the AIP is incapacitated in any respect, they will then appoint a guardian unless there are less restrictive alternatives available that could effectively protect the individual’s interests. The judge may establish a plenary guardianship, in which the guardian takes responsibility for all the ward’s rights, or a limited guardianship in which the guardian has authority only for specified matters.
How We Help Guardians Fulfill Their Responsibilities and Protect Their Loved Ones
Once appointed, a guardian essentially takes over all the responsibilities involved in managing another person’s life. That is no small undertaking and one that requires the time, knowledge, and resources the guardian may not have. With compassion, patience, and understanding, we guide clients through every aspect of fulfilling their roles as guardians, ensuring they have the advice and assistance they need to fulfill their duties.
Ginsberg Shulman, guardianship attorneys located in Fort Lauderdale, provide full-service and comprehensive representation for Florida guardianships, including:
- Marshaling the ward’s assets and gathering their accounts.
- Paying their bills.
- Maintaining their property.
- Finding a new place for them to live.
- Managing their geriatric and other healthcare.
- Suing people who absconded with their assets.
- Preparing accountings.
- Investigating and addressing any guardian misconduct or mismanagement.
- Terminating guardianships.
If you have questions or concerns about legal incapacity, guardianships, or protecting a loved one who may be facing challenges handling their affairs, we can help. Please contact Ginsberg Shulman today.