Protecting Florida’s elderly from bad guardianships

According to ABC Action News, professional guardianships is a growing industry in Florida. These professionals make a living from caring for people who have varying levels of incapacitation due to age, disability or overall failing health. However, the industry is so poorly regulated that cases of abuse often go unnoticed.

Some critics argue that too many of these guardians are more concerned about the elderly’s bank accounts than their well-being. Note that the state grants perfect strangers unfettered access to the financial assets a ward may have. Prior to becoming incapacitated, these people may have planned carefully for retirement only to have guardians charge expensive fees and squander the money away.

Sometimes, it is the adult children who discover the abuse, while other times a person may need to recover and prove that recovery before they can regain control of their lives. Counties are now stepping forward to tally up the damages. Pinellas County reported at least $22 million in suspicious guardian spending, while Palm Beach County found $5 million in missing assets and unsubstantiated spending.

In spite of the obvious risks, Forbes notes that there are times when adult children may have no choice but to consider filing for guardianship. This may happen when parents refuse to sign estate planning documents, when their ailing health requires medical intervention not covered in the health proxy or when the parents’ property need to be sold to fund retirement and health care.

Choosing a guardian is a difficult decision that Floridians should not undertake without professional advice. This may not always prevent the likelihood of getting a bad draw from the state-appointed pool. However, with the help of professional guidance, if adult children are vigilant and continue to keep tabs on their parents and their finances, they may spot any potential problems before they spiral out of control.

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