Guardianships are no joke. More and more troubling stories regarding guardianships have become public these past few months. In fact, John Oliver chose to dedicate a segment of his show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, to recognize and update his audience with the scary reality of guardianships. For example, during Oliver’s segment, he mentioned a couple who lost all of their money due to the actions of a court-appointed guardian. Oliver speaks in disbelief about a court-appointed guardian who used his ward’s finances to buy a sports ticket for over $1000 and chose to justify it in a ridiculous way. While elder abuse can happen at the hand of a court-appointed guardian, it is not as common as these sensational cases may suggest. In Florida, the guardianship laws are clear and make it difficult for guardians to abuse their powers. Lauren Richardson Law, PLLC believes that it is important to plan your estate and sign your advance directives to avoid guardianship if at all possible. Another option is to sign and file with the court a Designation of Pre-Need Guardian, so that if you do need a guardianship someday, you can choose the person to serve. It does not have to be your next of kin; however, next of kin would have preference of appointment if you do not designate a pre-need guardian. Below are the Florida court-appointed guardian’s powers and duties from the Florida Statutes.
744.361 Powers and duties of guardian.--
(1) The guardian of an incapacitated person may exercise only those rights that have been removed from the ward and delegated to the guardian. The guardian of a minor shall exercise the powers of a plenary guardian.
(2) The guardian shall file an initial guardianship report in accordance with s. 744.362.
(3) The guardian shall file a guardianship report annually in accordance with s. 744.367.
(4) The guardian of the person shall implement the guardianship plan.
(5) When two or more guardians have been appointed, the guardians shall consult with each other.
(6) A guardian who is given authority over any property of the ward shall:
(a) Protect and preserve the property and invest it prudently as provided in chapter 518, apply it as provided in s. 744.397, and account for it faithfully.
(b) Perform all other duties required of him or her by law.
(c) At the termination of the guardianship, deliver the property of the ward to the person lawfully entitled to it.
(7) The guardian shall observe the standards in dealing with the guardianship property that would be observed by a prudent person dealing with the property of another, and, if the guardian has special skills or is named guardian on the basis of representations of special skills or expertise, he or she is under a duty to use those skills.