Boca Raton Guardianship Attorney
Time takes a toll on us all. As we age, things that were once routine can become difficult if not impossible. This not only applies to our physical abilities but our mental faculties as well. Age, illness, or an unexpected tragedy can render an individual incapable of handling the affairs of life, like managing finances, paying bills, and making other important decisions. Such individuals are vulnerable to inadvertent and costly mistakes as well as the bad intentions of those who may try to take advantage of their vulnerability. That’s where an experienced Boca Raton guardianship attorney can step in to assist.
Ellis Law Group helps families establish a guardianship for their loved one which can protect their rights and secure their finances. We are fiercely protective of individuals and families who are facing the emotional and practical challenges involved when a once-vibrant and capable person is no longer able to handle things as they once did.
How Is Guardianship Defined in Florida?
Guardianship is a broad term that describes those scenarios in which an individual is appointed by the court to exercise the rights of and make decisions for a person who is deemed legally incapacitated to personally make those decisions. In practice, guardianships are imposed primarily in two circumstances: (1) to exercise control over the property of a minor who our law holds to be incapable of owning property and (2) to make decisions for adults who do not have capacity to care for themselves in one or more aspect of their lives.
The purpose of Florida’s guardianship law was described by the state’s legislature as follows:
“The purpose of this act to promote the public welfare by establishing a system that permits incapacitated persons to participate as fully as possible in all decisions affecting them; that assists such persons in meeting the essential requirements for their physical health and safety, in protecting their rights, in managing their financial resources, and in developing or regaining their abilities to the maximum extent possible; and that accomplishes these objectives through providing, in each case, the form of assistance that least interferes with the legal capacity of a person to act in her or his own behalf.”
Who Can Be a Guardian and What Powers Does a Guardian Have?
A “guardian” is a person or entity (such as a non-profit or corporate trust department) who has been appointed by the court to provide that assistance by acting on behalf of the individual. Any adult Florida resident, whether related or unrelated to the incapacitated person, can serve as a guardian unless they have been convicted of a felony or are incapable of carrying out responsibilities involved in being a guardian. Certain family members who do not reside in Florida are also eligible to serve as guardians.
Institutions which are appointed as guardians can only be granted authority over the individual’s property, not their person. A judge can consider the wishes expressed by the incapacitated person in a written declaration or at the hearing regarding his or her competence.
Keeping with the goal of providing the assistance “that least interferes” with the legal capacity and rights of the individual, the scope of a guardian’s power can be limited or broader in scope depending on the nature of a person’s incapacity and the scope of protection that is afforded by the person’s estate plan. The powers and authority granted to the guardian will be in keeping with Florida’s strong public policy that favors limiting the scope of a guardianship so that it is the least restrictive means of protecting the ward’s property and person.
A guardian given authority over property is required to inventory the property, invest it responsibly, use it for the ward’s support, and account for it by filing detailed annual reports with the court. The guardian also must obtain court approval for certain financial transactions.
Establishing a Florida Guardianship
For obvious reasons, having someone declared legally incapacitated and taking away their authority over their own life is not something that is done easily. Before a court will make a finding of incapacity, there are numerous steps that must be taken and proof provided so that the judge can make a fully informed decision.
In those situations where it is believed that an adult person lacks capacity to make decisions and/or meet their own needs, the guardianship process takes the following form:
- An adult, usually but not necessarily a family member, files a petition with the court asking it to make a determination as to an individual’s incapacity;
- Once the petition is filed, a judge will then appoint a committee of three people to evaluate the individual’s condition. This committee is usually comprised of two physicians and a third person who has the specialized knowledge, training, or education to form an expert opinion about the specific type of incapacity the individual is suffering from;
- The judge will also appoint an attorney to represent the person alleged to be incapacitated; though that person may substitute his or her own attorney for the court-appointed attorney;
- The members of the committee examine the individual, which usually involves a physical examination, a mental health evaluation, and a functional assessment;
- Each member of the committee submits to the court a report containing his or her findings and conclusion
- If two of the three members of the committee conclude that the person is not in fact incapacitated, the judge will dismiss the petition.
- If, on the other hand, the majority of the committee determines that If the majority of the examining committee concludes that the person is unable to exercise certain rights, the court will schedule a hearing to determine whether the person is totally or partially incapacitated.
- If the person is found to be incapacitated in any respect, a guardian will then be appointed at the end of the hearing unless there are less restrictive alternatives available that could address the incapacity and protect the individual’s interests.
How We Help Protect the Vulnerable in Guardianship Matters
At Ellis Law Group, our Boca Raton guardianship lawyers understand that the decision to seek a guardianship is not an easy one. When it comes to caring for those who are suffering from mental and physical infirmities, acknowledging that a loved one can no longer care for themselves is emotionally taxing. It can be even more so if the loved one resists the well-intentioned efforts to help them. With compassion, patience, and understanding, we guide clients through every aspect of guardianship, ensuring that wards are protected and that guardians have the resources and knowledge they need to fulfill their essential role.
Ellis Law Group provides full-service and comprehensive representation in all Florida guardianship matters, including:
- Preparing and filing guardianship petitions
- Establishing incapacity
- Guardianship litigation
- Guardianship management
- Preparing accountings
- Investigating and addressing any guardian misconduct or mismanagement
- Terminating guardianships
Contact a Boca Raton Guardianship Attorney
Guardianships raise plenty of emotional and practical issues, but they involve complicated legal, medical, and financial matters as well. Each Boca Raton guardianship attorney at our firm combines their legal knowledge with the personal care and attention necessary to effectively help families during a difficult time.
We formed Ellis Law Group because we believe that high-quality legal representation is especially important for those who are facing some of life’s most difficult challenges, including protecting the sick and vulnerable. With decades of combined experience, our lawyers have earned the trust of clients in Boca Raton, throughout Florida, and across the country who require the services of legal professionals who not only know the law, but know how to treat clients with the attention, responsiveness, accessibility, and respect they deserve.
We invite you to contact Ellis Law Group to learn more about how we can help you with your guardianship issues and concerns. Please call us today at 561-910-7500 or contact us online. We look forward to serving you.