Orange Park Lawyers Handling Guardianships
A guardianship is a legal proceeding in which a person (the "guardian") is appointed to exercise the legal rights of an incapacitated person (the "ward"). There are several levels of guardianship that can be established, a guardian of the person and a guardian of the property.
A guardian of the person may exercise the personal rights that have been removed from the ward by the court, including the right to contract, to apply for government benefits, to sue and defend lawsuits, to determine his or her residence, to consent to medical or mental health treatment, and to make decisions concerning his or her social environment. A guardian of the property will handle the ward's property and financial affairs, and not have authority over the ward’s person, with the oversight of the court. These may be the same person or different people.
At the law firm of Tolson & Associates, P.A., our Orange Park attorneys understand how the guardianship process works in Florida. Whether you are wishing to establish a guardianship of a person, of property or both, we are prepared to provide you with skilled legal guidance every step of the way.
The Process Of Establishing A Guardianship
The process of becoming the guardian of another person begins with filing a petition with the court to declare that person incapacitated and to request appointment of a guardian. The court will assign a three-person panel to conduct an evaluation of the ward to determine his or her capacity. This panel will file a report with the court and a hearing will be conducted. At this hearing, the court will receive the panels’ report as well as testimony from the prospective guardian and the prospective ward. Upon conclusion of the hearing, the court will make a determination of the prospective ward’s capacity and identify which rights of the ward need to be removed or exercised by another person, and appoint a guardian of the person and guardian of the property as required by the ward.
Once a guardian has been appointed, he or she may be required to take a training course within four months of appointment. The Guardian must also file annual reports with the court, which serve to help the court monitor a guardian's actions and management of the ward's property. Our lawyers will assist you in preparing these reports in addition to the initial filing process.
Guardianship For Minors
In Florida, a parent is the natural guardian of their children. However, in certain circumstances such as where a minor child receives an inheritance or litigation proceeds in excess of $15,000, a guardian must be appointed. In addition, parents may make a written declaration in their will choosing a guardian for the person and the property of their minor children to serve in the event that both parents predecease or become incapacitated.
Guardian Advocates For The Developmentally Disabled
A guardian advocacy is a legal process for family or caregivers of individuals with a developmental disability to obtain legal authority to act on their behalf. It differs from a full guardianship because the court is not required to find the developmentally disabled person incapacitated. Instead, the court focuses on the "decision-making" ability of an individual.
Guardian advocates can receive the same type of authority as full guardians, limited only by court order. However, guardian advocacies provide additional benefit because annual reporting requirements are less cumbersome than requirements for a full-fledged guardianship. We encourage the parents of developmentally disabled children to also ensure that their children's futures are secure through proper estate planning for special needs. We can let you know what your options are for establishing a more secure future for your child.
Alternatives To Guardianship
Before a guardianship is established in Florida, the courts will determine whether there is a less restrictive means available. Less restrictive means include properly prepared advance directives, such as a durable power of attorney and health care surrogate. Thus, if a proposed ward has prepared a durable power of attorney and a health care surrogate prior to the time of need, these documents may take the place of establishing a guardianship.
Establishing these documents is less invasive than a public guardianship proceeding. Further, it relieves the need for annual public accounting, allowing for more privacy and less cost. However, the documents must be set in place prior to the need arising. Taking part in proper estate planning with an attorney can ensure that these documents are valid and are set in place prior to the time when they are needed.
Contact The Law Firm Of Tolson & Associates, P.A., Today
We are available to meet all of your estate planning needs. Call (904) 269-0050 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your legal needs. Our law office hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Evening and weekend appointments are available upon request. We accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover credit cards.