Establishing A Guardianship
In the course of a typical day, we find ourselves making any number of decisions. While many of these decisions are minor, such as what to eat for lunch, or what time to go to bed at night, often times we are called upon to make decisions that have serious consequences to our health and wellbeing. Decisions regarding our personal property and finances, as well as stocks, bonds and other resources, require the ability to think clearly. Being able to make these decisions and to let others know of our preferences in matters affecting us is something that is easy to take for granted. In the event we become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for ourselves or communicate our wishes, efforts may be made to have a court ordered guardian appointed to oversee our personal affairs. A guardianship is a type of legal proceeding in which a person or institution is appointed to care for an incapacitated person and their assets. As part of prudent estate planning, it’s important to understand exactly what a guardian is, and how it affects the rights of the incapacitated person for whom a guardian is appointed.
When and How is a Guardian Appointed
As governed by Chapter 744 of the Florida State Statutes, a guardian is legally appointed to exercise the legal rights of an incapacitated person, a person who, as determined by the court, is unable to manage their own assets and property, or is unable to meet their own basic safety and health requirements. To appoint a guardian over an incapacitated person, the court will appoint a committee of three members, two of whom are typically physicians. An lawyer will be appointed to the person who is alleged to be incapacitated, and a hearing will be held to determine incapacity based on physical and mental examinations, as well as a functional assessment. If the majority of the committee determines that, based upon the evidence, the person alleged is found to be incapacitated, a guardian will be appointed.
Any resident of Florida, whether or not they are related to the incapacitated person, is able to serve as a guardian. A person who is alleged to be incapacitated may indicate in advance who they prefer to act as a guardian in the event they need one. There are also professional services who can supply guardians specifically trained and experienced in such matters.
Alternatives to Guardianship
While appointing a guardian may seem like the best way to protect an incapacitated person and their assets, there are some disadvantages. A responsible guardian will be expected to act upon your best interests, but there are decisions, such as where you live, how you manage your money and property, and what type of medical treatments you’ll receive, that you will no longer have the right to make yourself. When planning for your future and the possibility of a time you may not be capable of making choices on your own behalf, there are alternatives to guardianship to consider, such as:
- Establishing a trust;
- Designating someone to have durable power of lawyer;
- Setting up a living will; and
- Establishing joint accounts.
Contact an Experienced Florida Estate Lawyer Today
When planning for your future, it’s important to plan for all eventualities. Contact an experienced Florida estate lawyer today to discuss what options may be available. At the Law Firm of William E. Raikes III, we have extensive experience in handling estate matters for our clients, ensuring their wishes will be honored. Serving all of Fort Pierce, Port Saint Lucie, Vero Beach, Saint Lucie, and Indian River Counties, our lawyers and staff understand the importance of planning for the future. Call us at (772) 595-6654 for a free consultation today.