The Dangers of a Court-Appointed Guardian and Why You Need an Attorney

Judge Gavel on a guardianship book

If a friend or loved one is suffering dementia or losing their ability to care for themselves, you may be considering asking the Florida probate court to step in. But relying on a court-appointed guardian can sometimes make it harder to stay connected with your aging family member or have a say in their care. You may wish to consider an experienced guardianship lawyer to advocate for you and your loved one to keep everyone’s relationships safe and intact as long as their health allows.

When to Get a Legal Guardianship for Adults

The decision to bring in a legal guardianship can be hard on family members and loved ones. You would like to believe that your mother, grandfather, or other adult relative can care for themselves. But sometimes they can’t. Sometimes a chronic condition, degenerative disease, or accident leaves a person unable to make decisions for their own health or wellbeing. When that happens, it may be time to get a legal guardianship in place.

Guardianships are not always necessary, even when a person could be found legally incapacitated. Sometimes it is enough to use power of attorney and healthcare surrogate designations to act on the person’s behalf. However, if your loved one’s condition makes them act impulsively, or deny they need help, you may need the court to step in and take their ability to make those decisions away.

When a Court-Appointed Guardian Can Create Difficulties for Families

Many Florida guardianship cases are brought by family members on behalf of family members. In these cases, the probate judge’s primary concern is selecting the best suited guardian from among the interested parties. However, when the incapacitated person’s relatives live in another state, or are not able to take on the obligations of guardianship, the court may also choose a court-appointed guardian instead. These court-appointed guardians are often professionals (including attorneys) or companies that manage multiple clients’ care.

Once a guardianship has been granted, the court-appointed guardian has the final say on:

  • Medical care
  • In-home assistance
  • Housing choices (including placement in senior living facilities)
  • Sale or conservation of assets
  • Travel and accommodations
  • Discretionary spending

Professional guardianship companies are generally good at what they do. They understand the procedures in assessing and placing aging and disabled adults to make sure they receive the care they need, and they have the financial management experience to handle your loved one’s accounts. In fact, most petitions to remove guardians involve family members who have gotten in over their heads.

However, sometimes working with a court-appointed guardian can be difficult for family members who are used to having more control over what happens to their loved one. If a court-appointed guardian is controlling your loved one’s care, you may find changes have been made without your knowledge, or in ways you disagree with.

Guardianship Attorneys Advocate for Adults’ Autonomy

These disagreements are why it is important for local or out-of-state family members to begin working with an experienced guardianship attorney before the guardianship has been entered. Whether you want to step into the role of court-appointed guardian yourself, or simply want to advocate for your loved one’s autonomy, a guardianship lawyer can help you build the case for your family member’s best interests. This will help you stay involved in the decisions made about their care, and make sure that their preferences -- as stated in their living will or other estate planning documents -- are being honored.

How to Get Guardianship Changed

When a court-appointed guardian falls short in their duties, you may need to go back to the Florida probate court to get the guardianship changed or terminated. Removing a guardian isn’t easy -- you will need to show they have violated some part of their fiduciary duty to the ward in their care. However, sometimes family members can also ask the probate court to intervene to set limits on the court-appointed guardian’s decisions about things like housing placements or allowing the ward to travel to visit family. This can help you stay connected with your loved one in their final years, without taking on the reporting requirements and financial obligations of being the guardian yourself.

It can be a difficult and emotional process to obtain a guardianship, and it is important to have a guardian with both the ability to manage the duties of guardianship and the compassion to keep your loved one’s needs at heart. At Harrison Estate Law, P.A., our Florida guardianship attorneys can help you file a petition for guardianship yourself or work with the court-appointed guardian and the court to protect your loved one’s autonomy as much as their health allows. Contact us here or call 352-559-9828 to get help today. If you don’t live close to Gainesville or would prefer a remote consultation, we are happy to set up a phone or Skype call.

Categories: Guardianships