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New Guardianship Law Could Protect Florida’s Elderly

While Florida’s legislature frequently considers changing laws that apply to seniors and their guardians, a positive change was made this March when Governor Rick Scott signed a bill that gives the state more control over both court-appointed guardians and private guardians.

In many situations, the state’s courts give professional guardians the power to make decisions for incapacitated senior citizens. Florida currently has many individual public guardian programs that are not organized under a unified agency. That lack of central oversight has led to a variety of problems involving these guardians.

Under the new statute, Senate Bill 232, an agency known as the Office of Public and Professional Guardians will be created from the Statewide Public Guardianship Office. The new agency will have the power to create standardized rules and practices for both public and private guardians.

It will also be given the power to handle and investigate complaints from the public and to revoke a guardian’s authority as a penalty for violating the new standards. Family members will have the ability to ask the agency to intervene without needing to go through the court system.

Not only will the law affect public, court-appointed guardians, it will also curtail unethical behavior by professional private guardians. Private guardians, typically serving the wealthy, are allowed to sell off the possessions of those in their care to pay themselves. There are hundreds of these guardians in the state, and until now, they faced little regulation. They have been able to make decisions without the input of family, and in fact, often ended up fighting against families in court to litigate disputes about where the ward should live or how that person should be cared for.

If you need help dealing with guardianship issues or appointing someone to serve as your caretaker in the future, contact a trusted Florida estate planning attorney at the Charles Law Offices.

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