A guardianship is a way to ensure that you will be well taken care of if an illness or injury ever causes you to become incapacitated. Florida law lets you choose virtually any adult to serve as your designated guardian. Many people select their spouse or one of their adult children, while others choose a professional guardian.
Among other things, a guardian has the power to decide whether their incapacitated ward should receive treatment from life-support machines like ventilators and feeding tubes. This is literally a life-or-death scenario. The person you choose to serve as your guardian should be someone you trust to handle the matter in your best interests (and according to the terms of your advance directive, if you have one).
What is a professional guardian?
Professional guardians serve as guardians for elderly or vulnerable people in exchange for payment. Though professional guardians must take a short training course and register with the Florida Office of Public and Professional Guardians, for years, there have been concerns that some professional guardians are exploiting and neglecting their wards.
For example, the former guardian of a Florida man who died in 2019 is facing criminal charges. She is accused of signing a Do Not Resuscitate order against the wishes of her ward and his daughter when he was in the hospital. In other cases, authorities and families accuse professional guardians of exploiting wards for their money and neglecting their health and safety.
Keeping tabs on a guardian
In response, the Legislature passed a law to create a database to track professional guardians, their cases and history of disciplinary actions. The database will be available to the public so they can search for information on the guardian taking care of their parent, grandparent or other loved one. It is expected to be ready by next July.
Nobody wants to put themselves in the hands of a greedy, incompetent or untrustworthy guardian. When creating or amending your estate plan, make sure the guardian you choose is one you know you would want to make difficult decisions on your behalf.