When a person becomes incapacitated, Florida law allows another person to take over making medical and financial decisions by being appointed a guardian. A guardianship may be filed when a person is temporarily or permanently unable to make decisions for themselves due to incapacity.
Petitions for guardianships and conservatorships are granted in order to serve the best interests of the ward. A guardian may be granted the power to ensure that the medical, physical and educational needs of the ward are met. Guardianships should be limited to facilitate the independence of the ward.
A guardian must submit regular updates to the court about the condition of the ward and an accounting of any assets owned by the ward to assure the court that any money in the ward's estate is spent for the benefit of the ward. The role of a guardian is not that of a caretaker but a person who makes important decisions for the ward. A guardian is not allowed to spend money in the ward's estate for their own personal use.
A guardian must be qualified to be appointed by a court. They must be at least 18 years old and must not have been convicted of a crime involving dishonesty, such as forgery or theft. If the ward is able to express their wishes about selecting a guardian, the court will take this into consideration.
An estate planning attorney may be able to answer legal questions about guardianships and conservatorships. Planning ahead for what should happen in case incapacity or disability occurs is an important part of any estate plan. A durable power of attorney form grants permission to another person to sign forms like financial documents on the grantor's behalf. Documents like a power of attorney and a will are important to prepare before incapacity occurs.