Understanding Guardianship in Florida

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In Florida, guardianship is a legal process whereby a guardian is appointed to exercise the legal rights of a person who is incapacitated, or in cases when parents die or are incapacitated, for a minor child.

A guardian that is appointment by the Florida Circuit Court may be either an individual adult or an institution, such as the trust department of a bank. Any adult resident of Florida – or a close relative that lives out of state – may be appointed as a guardian.

A three-person panel appointed by the court, which usually includes two physicians, makes a determination of incapacity. At least one of the three panel members must have knowledge of the type of incapacity that is alleged in the petition. The panel submits a report to the court based on their examination, which much include a physical exam, a mental health exam and a functional assessment.

The incapacitated person is represented by a court-appointed attorney. If the panel finds the person to be incapacitated, a court hearing is scheduled to determine the degree of incapacitation – either total or partial. Following that hearing, a guardian is usually appointed.

A guardian can be given authority either over a person’s property or their person, or both. Those who have guardianship over property are required to inventory the property, invest it wisely, use it to support the incapacitated person and provide a full accounting annually to the court.

Those who have guardianship over a person must see to that person’s mental and physical care, and submit a plan to the court for that care, which is reviewed and updated annually.

For more information on establishing Florida guardianship, consult a Florida guardianship attorney.