Regular readers of this space may recall that guardianship of an adult may occur if that adult becomes no longer competent to handle some or all of his or her own affairs. We have discussed that any competent adult can file a petition to determine someone’s incapacity, and a court may appoint that person or a different person to be the ward’s guardian. While a guardian can be someone who knows the ward, there are also some professional guardians who make a career of caring for incapacitated people’s assets.
Florida defines a “professional” guardian as one who has been compensated for services provided to more than two wards. The state requires that, within a year of being appointed, professional guardians get 40 hours of training and instruction. They must also maintain their professional status by completing 16 hours of continuing education every two years. There is also a state guardian competency examination that must be passed. The professional guardian must post a blanket bond of $50,000 that covers all wards the guardian represents. Finally, professional guardians must register every year with Statewide Public Guardianship Office. Professional guardians are entitled to reasonable fees for services they provide. However, before they can collect such fees from the ward’s assets, guardians must submit an itemized list of services performed to be reviewed by the court.
The state has tightened the rules on professional guardians recently, at least partially due to a few widely reported news stories on guardians who abused their positions. Like any profession, most professional guardians take their jobs and responsibilities very seriously. If you want to plan for your possible incapacity, and be able to have a say in who will be looking after your interests should that happen, it may make sense to contact a Florida estate planning attorney for advice on establishing guardianships and more.
Source: elderaffairs.state.fl.us, “Guardianship Basics,” accessed Jan. 20, 2015