We have written before in this blog about guardianships, which can protect a person’s well-being or property if he or she is no longer able to do so, due to dementia or other health reasons. However, in the wrong hands guardianship can lead to a person being exploited or abused. This is why it is important that the guardian be a person who can be trusted.
In Florida, guardianship is “big business,” to use the Miami Herald’s term. About 3.7 million residents are over 65, many of whom are no longer competent to handle their financial affairs. They all deserve to have a guardian who has their best interests in mind, to keep their finances in good shape and their health as good as possible.
But not everyone is so fortunate. Greedy relatives or friends sometimes convince the court to appoint them guardians over an elderly person, then drain the incompetent person’s finances and isolate them from concerned family members.
In other cases, the court cannot find an appropriate family member to serve, so the person becomes a ward of the court, which means that professionals, usually strangers, make financial, legal and medical decisions on the person’s behalf.
Florida lawmakers are proposing several reforms to the state’s guardianship system. One bill would create an Office of Public and Professional Guardians and require that professional guardians register there. Another would send guardianship disputes to mediation instead of court, to reduce costs.
The laws governing guardianships could soon change significantly. To make sure you and your loved ones are protected, it may be a good idea to review your estate plan with your attorney.