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Can a court ignore a preneed guardian designation in Florida?

Previously, this blog discussed preneed guardianship designations, the statutory requirements for them and a Florida 1st District Court of Appeals or DCA case that helped define the standard to determine the competency of the person making the designation. At that time, it was suggested that there was another major issue in the preneed guardianship area that was clarified by that case.

The case Koshenina v. Buvens was decided in 2014. In it, a woman with a disease that caused terminal dementia had named her husband as a preneed guardian, but her siblings questioned whether she was competent to do so at the time of the designation after she injured herself shortly after being placed in a care facility. The trial court in the case decided that it was in the best interests of the woman to override her designation of guardian, and appointed the siblings as the new guardians.

On appeal, the 1st DCA determined two tests were needed. First, the court must determine the competency of the individual to make the preneed guardian designation, as we previously discussed. Second, if the person's designation is valid, the court needs to determine whether the designation is contrary to the person's best interests.

In the case from 2014, the trial court determined that the woman's best interests were served by appointing the siblings as guardians. The appeals court, however, decided that this was the incorrect standard. Rather than a general 'best interests' examination, the 1st DCA required that the trial court have a specific factually-supported basis to find that leaving the person appointed as the preneed guardian in that position would be contrary to the ward's best interests.

The difference between these two standards may seem a bit nuanced, but it changes the way challenges and defenses to preneed guardianship appointments are approached. Anyone with questions about guardianship or incapacity and their legal ramifications may wish to consider consulting an experienced Florida estate planning lawyer. This could provide individuals with general information so they can take timely actions.

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