What is guardianship?

Guardianship is a legal process in which a person’s rights are delegated to someone else to act on their behalf. This is a protective measure for individuals who cannot make decisions, cannot communicate decisions, or cannot act in their own best interest.

These vulnerable people may be:

  • A person with an age-related decision impairment;
  • A person with a traumatic brain injury;
  • A person with a significant developmental or intellectual disability; or,
  • A person with a substance abuse or mental health issues.

Guardianship and incapacity must be determined through a judicial procedure when a person lacks capacity to manage some or all of their property or to meet essential health, safety, or welfare requirements. If determined to be incapacitated, the court may delegate the persons rights to a guardian to act in the persons best interest while maximizing the person’s independence. Guardianship is a last resort. All other alternatives to guardianship should be explored.

The intent of guardianship is to better protect the incapacitated person while preserving the person’s rights.

Is there an alternative to guardianship?

  • Designation of Health Care Surrogate
  • Representative Payee for Social Security and/or other benefits
  • Power of Attorney
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Supportive Decision Making
  • Money Management Strategies
  • Joint Accounts / Account Titling
  • Eldercaring Coordination
  • Irrevocable, revocable, special needs, and other trusts
  • Community Care and Case Management
  • Voluntary Guardianship
  • Guardian Advocacy

Who can be appointed guardian?

That is a legal question, but generally, a family member is preferred. If they are not available, willing, or appropriate, a Public Guardian or Professional Guardian could be appointed. Public Guardians serve individuals who do not have sufficient resources to pay for services. Professional Guardians may be appointed and compensated from the assets of the person they serve.

Looking for more information?

The Florida Bar has a helpful brochure on guardianship that answers many questions.

Our Member Directory can help you find a professional guardian, attorney or other professional in your area who can answer questions for your circumstance.

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