Alternatives to Guardianship in Florida
Guardianships can sometimes be necessary to provide care to a loved one who no longer has the capacity to make decisions for themselves. However, guardianship is typically only used as an option of last resort, as it strips an individual of all legal autonomy. Additionally, the incapacitated person does not get to decide who will become their guardian. Individuals can retain their autonomy and offer courts less restrictive alternatives to guardianship by having established advanced directives.
Advanced directives consist of documents such as Designation of Healthcare Surrogates, Living Wills, and Durable Power of Attorneys and are great alternatives to guardianship. Also, a pre-need guardianship is a great way to ensure that that person you want to be your guardian, in the event that a guardianship is needed, will serve as that guardian. These documents are typically created alongside an estate plan for the individual and permit the individual to maintain decision-making control over their finances and healthcare, even after they have become incapacitated. They also allow the individual to have a say in who is making these decisions for them if they are deemed incapacitated.
A Designation of Healthcare Surrogate is a document which allows an individual to designate another person, known as a surrogate, to receive healthcare information about them and make healthcare decisions on the individuals' behalf. The document may become effective immediately upon signature or when the individual is declared incapacitated, depending on the individuals' wishes. In addition to Designation of Healthcare Surrogates, individuals may also create Living Wills. These are documents which allow an individual to decide whether they want to receive life-prolonging treatments if they are in a medically vegetative state or suffering from an end-stage condition and unable to communicate their wishes. Both Designations of Healthcare Surrogates and Living Wills allow individuals to maintain autonomy over their healthcare decisions, even upon incapacity.
A Durable Power of Attorney allows an individual to appoint another person to make financial and legal decisions on behalf of the individual. While this may sound similar to the authority a guardian has over a ward, a Durable Power of Attorney allows the individual to continue to act on their own behalf once they have regained capacity without court interference.
There are many great tool available to individuals to ensure they can keep their personal autonomy, even if they are in a difficult medical stage. And everyone should have these documents available, as life is unpredictable.
This article is not intended to be legal advice nor create an attorney-client relationship.