You know you need to appoint a guardian in your will, but what does that mean? It can mean a variety of things, so you need to become familiar with the different types of guardianship so you know which one(s) are relevant to your circumstances.
In general, a guardian is someone who has the legal right to act for an incapacitated person (ward). What the guardian can do depends on the type of guardianship you choose.
- Guardian of the person: This type of guardian acts on behalf of the ward’s well-being. This can entail basic provisions, housing, education and medical care.
- Guardian of property: This role involves making decisions concerning the ward’s property, finances and other assets.
- General guardian: You can appoint a general guardian to be responsible for both areas. All types must report annually to the court to ensure proper completion of duties.
- Voluntary guardian: A guardianship is voluntary if you are the one to choose the guardian, whether in your will or later in life when the need arises. It is wise to establish a guardian now if you have children who are minors or disabled, or if you want to prepare for your own potential incapacitation.
- Involuntary guardianship: A guardianship is involuntary if the court names the guardian because you did not name one and no longer can. This process is more complex and takes longer. The chosen person may not be the one you would want.
What about a power of attorney?
You may wonder where a power of attorney fits into this. It depends on factors such as what type of power of attorney (temporary, durable, medical) you have appointed, when you appointed the role and if you already have a guardianship in place. Florida tends to favor the least restrictive alternative. An estate planning attorney can help you determine whether a guardian or power of attorney, or both, is better for your situation.