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Written by Thomas Upchurch
The need for guardianship arises in a variety of circumstances:
In short, when a person is unable to adequately attend to his or her own needs, including personal and financial decision-making, a guardian or guardian advocate may be appointed to take on some of that responsibility.
Although family members commonly petition for guardianship of an incapacitated loved one, a guardian or guardian advocate need not be a relative. Generally, any competent adult may serve as a guardian or guardian advocate, provided that person:
Although the statutory requirements are few, a guardian or guardian advocate is court-appointed, and the court will look further into the guardian’s fitness for the role before entering the order. For example, the court may require a background check and a credit check. Guardians are also required to complete a court-approved family guardianship course.
Certain types of corporate entities may also serve as guardians. Common examples include non-profit organizations that serve people with disabilities and trust departments of banks. However, the latter can serve only as a guardian for property, not for the person.
In Florida, a guardian may be appointed for a minor or an incapacitated adult. The powers of the guardian will vary depending on the type of guardianship and the scope deemed necessary by the probate court. A guardian advocate is appointed for a developmentally disabled person. The most common purpose of a guardian advocacy is to ensure that the needs of a developmentally disabled person are met after he reaches the age of 18 and his parents no longer have the legal authority to effectively act as caretakers in certain areas.
The powers and responsibilities that may be assigned to each of these types of guardian are identical, but the process for appointing a guardian differs from the process for appointing a guardian advocate. Generally, the guardianship process is more stringent, and the would-be guardian is required to hire an attorney.
A guardian may be appointed for the person of the ward, the property of the ward or both. In some cases, different guardians may be appointed for the person and the property of the ward. In addition to this basic distinction, the court appointing the guardian will specify the scope of the guardianship, perhaps leaving some affairs to the discretion of the ward while granting the guardian authority in other areas.
When a loved one is unable to make some or all of the decisions necessary for his or her well-being, an experienced guardianship lawyer in Florida with thorough knowledge of guardianship matters can be an invaluable resource. The attorney can walk you through the qualifications for guardianship and the different types of guardianship in greater detail, and help you understand the responsibilities associated with being appointed guardian or guardian advocate.