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Florida Senate passes guardianship reform bill

It was back on March 25 that we reported on the bill lawmakers in Tallahassee were considering that would amend Florida’s guardianship laws. At the time, supporters of reform said that unscrupulous guardians are taking advantage of elderly, vulnerable clients, often leaving families with little recourse.

In an update, on Apr. 28 the Florida Senate passed the bill, which would explicitly prohibit the abuse, neglect or exploitation of elderly wards by their guardians. If signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott as expected, the bill would also change how courts appoint guardians.

Guardianships provide help for adults, such as older people dealing with dementia, who cannot manage their own financial affairs. In Florida, a class of professional guardians has arisen to meet this need. However, these guardians do not always seem to act in their wards’ best interests. Late last year, the Miami Herald reports, an investigation found guardians who moved their wards out of their homes and sold off their belongings.

State Rep. José Javier Rodriguez, a co-sponsor of the House version of the bill, said that the system will now provide more protection of the ward’s rights and wishes, even after a guardian has been appointed. The process of appointing a guardian will also be better, Rodriguez said.

There is no excuse for a guardian abusing the power he or she has over a vulnerable ward. But many families find that a guardianship over the person, the person’s property or both can protect the family member’s finances and health. Besides using a professional, loved ones can also serve as a guardian.

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