Legal Guardianship for the Elderly in Fort Myers
When an elderly person is determined to be incapacitated, it is often necessary for a legal guardian to be appointed by a judge. The guardian is typically a family member or professional guardian and the subject of the guardianship is called the Ward. Once incapacitation has been determined by a judge, a family member or professional guardian is usually appointed by the court to fill this role.
Due to the sensitive nature of guardianship, there are specific requirements to be met before a court-appointed guardian is determined necessary. A guardian’s activities are overseen by both an attorney and the Court to make sure the elderly person is protected.
Do you have an elderly loved one who is mentally or physically impaired and no longer independent? Call Prather & Swank, P.A. to get assistance from a highly-qualified, professional guardianship lawyer.
How does the Guardianship Process Work?
All states have their own elderly guardianship procedures, but in Florida, the process begins with the filing of a Petition to Determine Incapacity and Petition to Appoint Guardian. A Petitioner is represented by an attorney and the Court will appoint an attorney to represent the alleged dependent person. The Court will also appoint an examining committee made up of three professionals who are ordered to meet with the incapacitated person and evaluate their capacity. This committee will then prepare and submit reports and recommendations to be discussed at a court hearing. Reasonable alternatives to guardianship will also be considered. It’s also possible for a guardian to be responsible for the Ward’s property, person, or both.
Common Petitioners in a guardianship proceeding are:
- A spouse or domestic partner of the elderly person.
- A relative of the elderly person.
- A friend of the elderly person.
It is not required for the person who signs the Petition to Determine Incapacity to also petition for appointment as a guardian. In fact, it is common for a family member to sign the initial pleadings but request the appointment of a professional guardian. Guardianships can put a strain on the relationships between family members, so sometimes hiring an attorney to be the middleman is beneficial.
The process for guardianship can be complex, but every step is necessary to ensure that guardianship is necessary and that the right person is chosen.
Duties of a Legal Guardian
The guardian of an elderly person must be represented by an attorney and is required to submit reports to the Court about living arrangements, care plans and the Ward’s property, depending on case needs. Guardians must be bonded in most cases and a non-professional guardian is required to take a training course within 4 months of their court appointment. The guardian is permitted to take some actions without first getting Court permission, but many actions require a court order.