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Could your loved one benefit from legal guardianship?

When faced with the prospect of a family member being unable to manage their day-to-day affairs, the choice to step in on that person's behalf can be a difficult one to make. Florida law allows for legal guardianship in cases where a loved one is either too young or too ill to make decisions on their own. By understanding how a guardianship can be established or contested, you can take the necessary steps to protect your loved one in their time of need.

How Guardianship Works

Guardianship often becomes necessary when someone becomes unable to handle their own affairs due to age-related maladies, serious illness or accident. Guardianship also becomes an option for minor children who inherit property or receive settlements. Once the court appoints a guardian, that person is tasked with ensuring the health, financial and legal well-being of the "ward" or person whose day-to-day affairs they're managing.

Guardianship confers legal powers to carry out duties and responsibilities that would otherwise go unfulfilled. For example, the guardian of a child may be responsible for having that child enrolled in school or admitted for medical care -- things that a caretaker may not have the legal standing to perform.

How to Qualify as a Guardian

In Florida, a guardian must be at least 18 years of age and a legal state resident or a non-resident who is either directly related to the ward, a spouse, adoptive parent or a legally adopted child of the ward. Blood relations of the ward, including brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, are also qualified to serve as guardians. Those who have been convicted of a felony are not eligible to become a guardian under current statutes.

Those seeking guardianship must also file the following documents:

· Petition to Determine Incapacity -- To establish the need for guardianship

· Petition for Appointment of Guardian -- To request the court to appoint a guardian

· Application for Appointment as Guardian -- To request the court to appoint you as guardian

An estate planning attorney can help you with aspects of establishing and managing the guardianship, from creating asset inventories and investments to handling the sale of real estate and other assets. Your attorney can also help you create a plan of care for aged and disabled wards, including housekeeping and long-term care.

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