One of the main reasons that Miami residents are encouraged to see to their estate planning early on in their lives to protect themselves and their assets in the event that they become incapacitated. Those who do not risk their decision-making power being handed over to a professional guardian, who may be someone to whom they or their families have no connection with whatsoever. While the law does require that professional guardians be subjected to rigorous background screening and undergo several hours of specialized training, guardianship abuse remains a problem. The United States Government Accountability Office reports that between 1990 and 2010, select cases of guardianship abuse resulted in $5.4 million being stolen from wards.
One of the keys to avoiding guardianship abuse is to recognize and report it. According to the Florida Guardianship Law, any of the following may qualify as a form of such abuse:
- Using the position of being a guardian for the purpose of financial gain
- Attempting to influence a ward (or any of a ward’s family members) into initiating verbal, written, electronic or sexual activity
- Violating any of the rules adopted by the Office of Public and Professional Guardians regarding proper conduct and procedures
Furthermore, activities such as making misleading or fraudulent representations regarding one’s activities as a guardian can make one subject to discipline, as can filing any reports or records one knows to be fraudulent (even fraudulent claims against other guardians). Being convicted of or entering into a plea agreement on a criminal charge related to one’s practice as a guardian (or failing to report a past conviction) can also lead to trouble for a professional guardian. So can being unable to adequately perform one’s duties due to the use of alcohol, drugs, chemicals and other controlled substances.