A comprehensive estate plan should always include the designation of someone who will have power of attorney (POA) over your health care and finances if you become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for yourself. You should also have an advance directive or living will that details your wishes for end-of-life care. Often having these documents will avoid the necessity of guardianship which can be costly and intrusive.
If you do not have a valid durable power of attorney or health care document, Florida also has a unique and often welcome option when planning for a possible time when you’re still alive but not able to care for yourself. You can name a “preneed guardian” as part of your estate plan.
How does Florida law define this role?
Under Florida law, a preneed guardian is someone who will “assume the duties of guardian immediately upon an adjudication of incapacity.” By doing this, loved ones don’t have to spend time and money petitioning a court to be named your guardian. It also helps ensure that you are the one to choose the person who will be responsible for your care if you no longer can be.
Many people today are advancing into their senior years with no spouse, children or other close family members. It can be frightening to think that a court could designate a “professional” guardian who doesn’t know you and may or may not have your best interests at heart.
A preneed guardian doesn’t have to be a family member. You can name a close, trusted friend (assuming they’re agreeable to potentially taking on this responsibility). They only need to be a “competent adult.” It can make sense to name the person you’ve chosen to have POA over your health care and finances. You don’t necessarily have to, however. If you name different people to these roles, it’s simply important that they can work together.
Make sure your designated guardian is prepared to step into the role
In addition to ensuring that your designated preneed guardian (and any alternate you name) is fully aware of and agreeable to taking on the role if necessary, it’s crucial that they have the information they’ll need to see that your wishes are honored. Besides having a copy of your living will or other health care directive, they’ll need to know about any savings or insurance you have for long-term care (LTC), like a LTC insurance policy, and whether you would prefer to enter residential care or remain at home if you ever need full-time care.
If you think designating a preneed guardian is worth considering, it’s wise to find out more about this role. Having experienced estate planning guidance will help you better make this and other key decisions.