In our recent discussions of the adult guardianship system in Florida, we have covered a lot of ground regarding some of the legal reasoning used by courts in deciding whether a family member can challenge the potential appointment of a person who has been designated previously by an incapacitated adult to be his or her guardian. Before that, we spent time on how the professional guardianship system in Florida had come under scrutiny and some legislative efforts to change some of the ways the system works. These discussions point up one of the main reasons older adults end up with people other than family appointed as their guardians: the family can't agree. Two recently reported cases illustrate this.
In the first, a man who hoped to be able to care for his father, who was a victim of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, had a disagreement with his sister as to who should become his guardian. As a result, a court appointed the county's non-profit guardianship program to care for the man's father. While his father was under the guardianship of the program, the man claims that his existing healthcare services were cancelled, and the program attempted to put him in a facility that the son did not think suitable. The son also alleges that the program was delivering only a fraction of his father's benefits checks to pay for his living expenses, without accounting for the missing money. After a local news organization intervened, the guardianship program explained that their policy was to ensure that their wards had savings in case of future emergency, and sent a full accounting to the son. He has since won legal guardianship of his father back.
In the second case, a woman claims that a for-profit professional guardianship organization used up to $400,000 of her mother's savings, thus making it unavailable when her mother became sick and could have used it. The professional guardian had been appointed due to a dispute amongst the woman's family. Her mother died in 2013, and the woman went on to help found a group called Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship.
As we have seen previously, it is often a good idea to have a pre-need guardian selected through proper estate planning procedures, to attempt to control who will have power over one's life in case of incapacity. The above cases show that even if such documentation does not exist, it may be important for family members to come to agreement about guardianship before heading to probate court.
Source: nbcmiami.com, "Son's Fight to Regain Guardianship of his Father Highlights State Issue With Little-Known System," Mc Nelly Torres and Myriam Masihy, Oct. 22, 2015