New process for court-appointed guardianships

Florida has long been known as a state where many retirees live. The sunny days and mild climate make it an ideal place for people to spend their post-working years. This reality, however, does make issues pertaining to senior citizens more pertinent to Floridians than to people in other parts of the country. For many persons, this can include the issue of a potential guardianship.

A person may live to be 80, 90 or 100 years old but may not be fully capable of making important decisions for themselves. When this happens, it is important that another competent adult is identified to do so. If a family member is not identified, Florida courts have the ability to appoint a neutral third party as a guardian for a person deemed to be an incapacitated individual. Such incapacity can result from a mental illness, deterioration such as dementia or some other reason.

A new bill recently signed by the Governor will take effect on July 1, 2015. This legislation will make it harder for court-appointed guardians to get away with elder abuse and exploitation. It even enacts criminal penalties for such actions. The process of appointing such guardians has also been amended. This includes the required payment to medical committee members whether or not a person is ultimately identifies as incapacitated. In the past, such committee members only received compensation if they found in favor of the incapacitated label.

Anyone who is concerned about the potential for abuse or exploitation of an elderly person, especially at the hands of a guardian, may wish to contact an attorney to learn more about how to get help.

Source: Herald Tribune, “Adult guardianship bill becomes law,” Barbara Peters Smith, June 2, 2015

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