Guidance On Guardianship From A Board-Certified Elder Law Attorney
Many families face a situation where a loved one is no longer or never was able to care for themselves or manage their financial and household affairs. Whether they are declining or are a minor or are disabled, it’s difficult to watch your parent or other family member in need of someone looking after their best interests.
Guardianship allows the family to intervene to protect that person from themselves and to protect them from scammers (or relatives) who would take advantage. I am Michelle Hollister, a certified specialist in elder law with extensive experience and credentials in Florida guardianship law. I can help you assert guardianship, plan for guardianship or pursue less drastic alternatives.
Whether you need immediate intervention or you are planning ahead, please call my Boca Raton office today to talk it through.
Guardianship grants authority to an individual to make care decisions and/or financial decisions for a person who lacks or has lost the capacity to care for themselves. Guardianship of the person refers to hygiene, health care and day-to-day living, including decisions about nursing home care. Guardianship of the estate refers to the person’s bank accounts, bills, loans, taxes and other financial, business and legal matters.
An individual of sound mind can establish a pre-need guardianship designation in anticipation of a day when they can longer manage self-care. This allows you to choose who your guardian would be.
When there is no pre-need designation or powers of attorney in place, it may be necessary for adult children or other family members to petition the court to be appointed as guardian. This can be emotional and contentious if the ward still has some of their faculties and autonomy, or if other family members oppose the nominee or the need for guardianship. A guardian can be family, friend or professional and I represent all of them. I have represented clients in voluntary and involuntary guardianship proceedings in Palm Beach County, Miami-Dade County, Broward County and other Florida jurisdictions.
When Is Guardianship Warranted?
There are essentially three types or three scenarios for guardianship:
Guardianship of an elderly adult who has lost the mental or physical capacity to care for themselves. The most common situation is a parent who has been diagnosed with dementia or other degenerative condition. It could also apply to a person of any age who becomes incapacitated from a car accident or illness.
Guardianship of minor children when the parents are deceased or absent. You can nominate guardians in your estate plan, subject to that person’s willingness to take on parental duties and the court’s approval. In Florida we have guardianship of minor for property too. A guardian must be appointed when a minor receives either through settlement or inheritance $15,000 or more.
Guardianship of an adult child with special needs. Some parents do not realize that when their special needs child turns 18, they are no longer authorized to act on their son or daughter’s behalf. Special needs planning such as legal guardianship and a special needs trust assures that you can still oversee their care and well-being while protecting their eligibility for government benefits. Guardianship is a last resort for persons with special needs and if an lesser restrictive alternative such as durable power of attorney and health care surrogate is a viable option, that is preferred.
Guardianship Is Not Always The Answer
Guardianship ought to be a last resort. Many people who think they need a guardianship are surprised — and relieved — to learn that they can get by with a less intrusive alternative. For example, one solution is to create trusts for property, managed by a family member or professional trustee. Another option is to create a durable power of attorney or name a health care surrogate, which gives limited authority to a proxy of your choosing. Power of attorney essentially says “I need your help” as opposed to a guardianship which says “I need you to take over my life.”
A Long And Distinguished Background In Guardianship Law
I am board-certified as a specialist by the Florida Bar, a reflection of my experience and in-depth knowledge in this field. I served two terms as the president of the National Guardianship Association. Prior to private practice, I worked my way up to Director of Probate, Guardianship and Mental Health Services for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court and was then appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush as Executive Director of the Statewide Public Guardianship Office in Tallahassee. In 2011, I was invited to testify before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.
I’m not just tooting my own horn. I want to assure you that you will get sound legal guidance for this complex and important process. So many families come to me distressed and confused about what to do. I aim to put you at ease and walk you patiently through all the options so we can determine together the best approach for you and your loved one.
Let’s Discuss Solutions For Your Family
I have assisted with guardianships across South Florida and statewide. You work directly with me and I am accessible and responsive. Call The Law Offices of Michelle R. Hollister, PA at 561-401-0743 to arrange a consultation or use the email form to reach out.