Guardianship Attorney in Jacksonville
Understanding Florida’s Guardianship Laws
It is always heartbreaking to see a loved one suffer from a physical or mental incapacity. That pain can be compounded if they become unable to manage their financial affairs, resulting in unpaid bills, overdue taxes, and mounting fines related to their estate. Ideally, your loved one has already established powers of attorney that authorize someone to act on their behalf in such a situation. If they have not, you may need to explore a legal guardianship to determine who makes decisions involving your loved one and their assets.
We at the Weldon Law Group, PLLC have over 20 years of legal experience and an intimate understanding of Florida’s guardianship law. If you have questions about the guardianship of your loved one, our Jacksonville attorney is here to help. Call (904) 712-2556 or contact us online and request a free consultation.
Who Are Guardianships For?
Guardianships are generally intended to help adults suffering from dementia or another debilitating physical or mental incapacity. Because these individuals are unable to manage their own financial affairs, another adult must help run their estate.
There are also instances where a minor (anyone under the age of 18) might require a guardianship after receiving significant financial assets, as they might as the result of an inheritance or lawsuit. In the state of Florida, minors may not manage their own estate and thus need an adult to do so on their behalf.
In both scenarios, temporary guardianships can be sought in the state of Florida. It can take several weeks to establish a traditional guardianship, so a temporary guardianship acts as emergency relief for those who need urgent help managing their estate. These temporary guardianships are appointed by the Court and, as their name would suggest, only last until a permanent guardianship is established.
Are You Facing a Question of Guardianship?
Ideally, you will never have to face a question of guardianship. Proactive estate planning can avoid the issue entirely through designating clear powers of attorney. However, life can be messy, and if you are concerned about guardianship or any estate planning matter, our Jacksonville guardianship lawyer wants to help.
Establishing a Guardianship
It is important to understand that no guardianship will be automatically appointed. The process involves a large amount of paperwork and cooperation with a local Court, which ultimately decides whether to grant guardianship authority.
The person seeking the guardianship, or the Petitioner, must first file a formal Petition with the Court. This Petition explains the physical or mental incapacities that prevent the “alleged incapacitated individual,” or “AIP,” from managing their own affairs. The Petition also outlines the details of the AIP’s estate, including assets and liabilities. The Petitioner must also file an Application detailing their own background and qualifications, as well as an Oath pledging to lawfully manage the AIP’s estate.
Next, the Court appoints a lawyer to represent the AIP. This lawyer will make every effort to explain the guardianship proceedings to the AIP. The Court will also designate a three-person Committee comprised of medical professionals. This Committee evaluates the AIP’s capacity to manage their own affairs. They make a recommendation to the Court on whether the AIP has no, limited, or full incapacity.
Following the submittal Committee’s report, the Court holds a hearing in which evidence is presented from both sides. The AIP may argue they do not require a guardian, while the Petitioner might offer evidence to the contrary. This evidence can include medical records and testimony from friends, loved ones, and business partners.
After the evidence has been reviewed, the Court will come to a decision on whether the AIP has capacity to manage their estate. If they have limited or full incapacity, the Court generally moves to appoint a guardian. However, if there is more than one Petitioner or an objection to the Petitioner serving as guardian, additional hearings may be required. If the AIP is found to have limited incapacity, the Court can sometimes place commiserate limits on the appointed guardian’s authority.
The appointed guardian must file annual reports with the Court. This documentation includes updates on the AIP’s condition and extensive records detailing the guardian’s administration of the estate.
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