Problems With Guardianships May Lead to Changes in FL

Problems With Guardianships May Lead to Changes in FL

At least one news report has shown that Florida may have some serious issues with its guardianship system.  This might soon be changing. In December 2014, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune published a series of stories documenting the issues, including instances in which seniors were allegedly removed from their homes and lost their belonging due to the actions of their court-appointed guardians.

The family of the complainant in those stories suggests that the problem was not with the guardianship system and the allegations he makes against the guardianship system are invalid.  Instead, they claim that the guardianship complained of kept their complaining relative from commandeering the assets of the elderly relative.  In any event, the complaining relative has gotten the Florida Legislature to give a second look at the guardianship system in Florida and may make some revisions to it during the currently ongoing legislative session.

Florida is home to approximately 3.7 million seniors and many of these individuals require a guardian. A guardian is expected to protect their rights and care for their affairs. Unfortunately, sometimes guardians take advantage of their position and exploit these seniors. There are a number of reasons for the perceived problems in the guardian system, including that the position requires very little training (40 hours) and few qualifications.  On the other hand, appointment of others in lieu of a guardian may put in place someone with no training at all.  Also, while court appointed guardians are supervised by the courts, other kinds of agents are not.

The guardian system may have issues with who is signing up to act as a guardian.  It has also been alleged that there are problems in the appointment of professional guardians.

A current proposal, HB 5, would require professional guardians to be appointed on a rotating basis, to avoid the perception that judges play favorites when appointing professional guardians. Some experts say that could create other problems, though.  Additionally, the bill would allow judges to refer contested guardianship cases to mediation in order to cut down on litigation costs and expedite the removal process. Other measures are also pending that would address some of the alleged issues with guardian programs. As you can probably tell, the issue is very complicated.

Guardians serve an important legal function for senior citizens. To learn about how you can set up a guardianship and what alternatives there are to guardianship, contact the knowledgeable estate attorneys at BaumannKangas Estate Law. in Florida.