Monthly case histories about the real guardianship experience
Guardianship Spotlight:
Michelle Hollister, Palm Beach Chapter Designee
How I Became Involved in Guardianship

Michelle Hollister, FSGA
I began as a probate staff attorney for the Seventeenth Judicial  Circuit and was promoted to Court Probate and Guardianship Counsel and then to Dir e ctor of Probate, Guardianship and Mental Health Services for the Circuit Court.

Later, I was appointed by Governor Jeb Bush as Executive Director of the  Statewide Public Guardianship Office in Tallahassee. During this time, a well known right-to-die case was receiving a lot of media attention. As a result, I was asked to advise and and develop strategies for promoting advance directives in Florida.

I continued to serve in this position for Governor Charlie Crist.  

I have served on numerous national and state work groups and have spoken throughout Florida and across the country on guardianship topics.
Guardianship
My Passion: More Funding for Public Guardianship

I was responsible for establishing  funding for Florida's court-appointed public guardians w hen a story was published that became my  poster child for our efforts. Even though years have passed since the story, my passion for seeking that funding has never wavered.

In 2008, 85 year old Ronald Larsen, autistic and with dementia, was a  resident at a nursing home in Manatee County,  when a lesion was discovered on his face by a public guardian visiting another person . The lesion had not been properly treated and  it became extremely odorous. He couldn't be treated until a  guardian was hired to approve surgery for him. So the person who  discovered his wound became his emergency temporary guardian, got him  the proper treatment and he eventually recovered.

Later, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) concluded that one of  its investigators had not been aggressive enough in seeking treatment for Mr. Larsen before the guardian discovered him. A fter all of the negative attention Mr. Larsen's nursing home received, the facility eventually closed.

The case didn't sway the Florida legislature to provide additional funding,  but it did result in a gift of more than $47,000 to the Manatee-DeSoto  public guardian office from  The Foundation for Indigent Guardianship, Inc, a  non-profit group that raised money for public  guardianship through the statewide public guardianship office.

The case also resulted in DCF implementing new protocols on handling  medical neglect cases. For example, case investigators are now required to  photograph any medical condition that could be related to neglect.

My mission to help secure funding for public guardianship has included  my testimony in front of the United States Senate Subcommittee on  Aging about the effectiveness of guardianship monitoring. I also serve  as a board member of the Florida State Guardianship  Association (FSGA). Through it all, and as an Elder Law Attorney in Boca  Raton, I see the anguish, time and expense that families go through  when a loved one needs a guardian. So it's important for people to  realize that planning ahead can help them avoid guardianship  altogether.

For example, completing your advance directives, which a) express your own  instructions for your financial and medical care in case you become incapacitated,  and b) appoints your designated health care surrogate to communicate  those instructions, is much less expensive and time consuming than  going through guardianship.

It's not easy to see a family go through the guardianship process, but it is good  to be a part of a profession that provides good people and  resources to assist those who are incapacitated and allows them do as well as they possibly  can, as demonstrated in the Larsen case.
What question do I get asked the most?

"I am the parent of an incapacitated adult, I don't have to hire a guardian, do I?"

Although you may have raised this child and know every little thing about them and you love and trust each other, the law does not take that into account. If your child is over 18 and incapacitated to the degree that they cannot sign advance directives, then yes, you may need guardianship.
What is a good tip for those selecting a guardian?
Light Bulb

Look for a guardian that you and your loved one "clicks" with.  This person will play a vital role in your quality of life. Make sure you feel comfortable with them.

- Michelle
We hope these articles are informative for you. Please keep in mind  that some of the views expressed are not necessarily the opinions or  philosophies of other FSGA members. We recommend hiring a guardian  that is a good fit for you.
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