Professional Guardians: Problems or Solutions?
Florida is home to one of the largest senior populations in the United States. With an aging population, older Floridians are particularly susceptible to being placed under a professional guardian's care, especially if they end up in a nursing facility. These facilities will often request courts to appoint a professional guardian to the individual to assist with their care, which ends up creating a number of problems for the senior and their family members.
Guardianship is a legal process in which a person is declared legally incapacitated and another person, known as a guardian, is appointed to make decisions on their behalf. Guardianship is typically used as a last-resort and can be a helpful tool to help family members care for loved ones in need. However, problems may arise when professional guardians are appointed.
A professional guardian is a person unrelated to the incapacitated person appointed by the court to assume the legal rights of the individual declared incapacitated. Professional guardians are paid an average of $70,000 per year from the incapacitated individual's assets and handle around $1 billion in assets in Palm Beach County alone. The state of Florida has little oversight of professional guardians, and family members of those placed under a professional guardian's care have faced numerous struggles attempting to care for their loved ones and get them out of the guardianship.
In some cases, family members have been accused of felonies by professional guardians while trying to assist their loved ones. Acting under power of attorneys created prior to the guardianship, family members using their loved one's funds to provide luxuries or better care have faced criminal charges. In one case, a family member was accused of grand theft auto for acting under a previous power of attorney and transferring title of vehicles into her own name to protect them from being sold by the professional guardian.
As Florida continues to see an increase in senior population, these stories will likely continue to increase. Individuals attempting to provide adequate care for their loved ones under a professional guardianship, transfer their loved one's assets, or remove the professional guardian should consult with an attorney prior to taking any action.
This article is not intended to be legal advice, nor create an attorney-client relationship.