LegalJourney Blog

Friday, April 1, 2016

Florida Passes New Guardianship Laws to Protect Vulnerable Seniors

Florida’s guardianship laws are in place to protect vulnerable seniors and disabled adults from further physical and/or financial harm. Guardianship is a process through which a close family member or friend assumes the role of ensuring the health, safety and well-being of the “ward.” This role involves ensuring the ward receives proper medical care and oversight during the day.

In some cases, however, wards are in need of a guardian but do not have close friends or family members that can fulfill the role. This is often the case if the ward is one of the few surviving members of the family, or the ward’s closest next-of-kin live out-of-state. When this scenario arises, what’s known as a “professional guardian” may step in to fulfill the role. Unfortunately, as the legislature recently learned, these professional guardians can be anything but professional, oftentimes stealing from clients or over-medicating wards to control combative behavior.

Earlier this month, Florida Governor Scott signed into law a bill that creates the Office of Public and Professional Guardians, which will work to oversee professional guardians statewide. As part of the new Office, professional guardians will be subject to standardized regulations and guidelines -- as well as regular inspections and audits.

The bill follows a 2015 measure which created criminal penalties for any professional guardian caught stealing or harming their wards. In preparation for the creation of the Office of Public Guardian, the legislature sought testimony from many families and support workers familiar with the plight of many of the state’s wards -- including many family members of wards having lost a substantial amount of life savings due to theft by professional guardians.

Serving as a guardian in Florida creates an extensively intimate relationship between the guardian and the ward, with the former having access to the ward’s financial affairs and personal information. In the event a guardian is caught mishandling the assets of a ward, he or she could now face both civil and criminal penalties, as well as the loss of the privilege to perform public guardianship services in the state.

Contact an experienced guardianship attorney today!

If you have questions about guardianship in Florida or would like to discuss a difficult issue within your estate plan, please contact Legal Journey Law Firm, PLLC today: 813-517-1525.


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Attorney Karnardo Garnett represents clients with their Estate Planning, Elder Law and Asset Protection needs throughout the Tampa Bay Area, serving all of the bay area, including but not limited to Tampa, Brandon, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Gibsonton, Riverview, Oldsmar, Safety Harbor, Hillsborough County, and Pinellas County, FL



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