This blog has previously reported on the attempts to reform the professional guardianship process for adults in the state of Florida. Recently, at least some part of that goal has come closer to fruition. In late April the Florida Senate passed, by unanimous vote, a bill that purports to improve the adult guardianship process and make exploitation of wards more difficult. The bill is now in the hands of the governor, who is expected to sign it into law.
The impetus for this particular legislation, according to the Miami Herald, was a group of Floridians who lobbied Tallahassee for the changes after having elderly loved ones who were allegedly abused or exploited by court-appointed guardians. The proposed law would make changes in the way guardians are appointed by courts, clarifies the duties of guardians and is intended to better protect the rights and wishes of wards. The legislators who sponsored the bill say that the anecdotes of people who have had loved ones hurt by the system helped spur them to action. According to the leader of the group that lobbied for the law, while it is a good beginning, the state courts need to also participate in the process. According to him, the Florida Supreme Court needs to be involved in enforcing consequences against those guardians who abuse their positions.
The state Department of Elder Affairs claims that the number of professional guardians has grown over the past several years from 10 to over 460. With that growth have come problems and greater scrutiny. A Sarasota newspaper, for example, published an investigative report in December that alleged some guardians removed wards from their homes and sold their personal property.
While many professional guardians are surely responsible and caring individuals, those that use the system for their own ends do exist. Individuals who wish to prepare for possible incapacity as part of a comprehensive estate plan, or those who have questions about what can be done for loved ones in the system, may want to consider discussing their options with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney.
Source: Miami Herald, "Florida Senate approves guardianship overhaul," Kathleen McGrory, April 28, 2015