• May 19, 2024

Universal Guardianship Would Improve Florida Adult Protection 2023

Florida is one of the leading states in this field, having established some of the most protective, comprehensive, and cutting-edge regulations to protect persons under guardianship.

At the same time, there is always an opportunity for legislative reform. And the Universal Adult Guardianship and Protection Proceedings Jurisdiction Act can yield additional efficiencies.

Having the biggest population of older citizens in the country, the Sunshine State has a special responsibility to individuals facing the possibility of guardianship and has done a great deal to meet the issue.

When establishing guardianship, the Florida law has made it plain that less restrictive alternatives must always be investigated and evaluated. Judges are required to remove only those rights that pose a risk to the ward. The purpose of guardianship in Florida is to safeguard the state’s most vulnerable inhabitants.

Protective Method

In Florida, courts are compelled to consider the ward’s expressed desires on their guardian and the care they receive. The court must examine any potential conflicts of interest with a putative guardian, such as if that person offers major professional or business services to the individual.

The court appoints a counsel for each alleged incapable individual in order to protect their due process rights and communicate their position and desires to the court. Yet, the potential ward may substitute their own counsel for the court-appointed one, granting them autonomy in this crucial legal subject.

In addition, Florida law ensures that any existing advance instructions, such as a durable power of attorney or designation of healthcare surrogate, be respected to the greatest degree practicable. In first petitions for guardianship, the petitioner must inform the court of any such directions.

If a family member is named as an agent under a durable power of attorney, these documents stay in effect until the court determines the problems of incapacity and guardianship.

Frequently, the court acknowledges these papers as the least restrictive options. The court is required to remove only the rights that put the individual at risk, resulting in a restricted guardianship that preserves as many rights as feasible.

Guardian Standards

Also, Florida law establishes criteria for those who would act as guardians. The Office of Public & Professional Guardians of the state registers public and professional guardians and monitors them throughout the year in case any mandatory reports are submitted late.

In Florida, all public and professional guardians are subject to rules governing their interactions with wards and are subject to disciplinary action for violations. Also, all guardians must be represented by counsel and pass a criminal and financial background investigation.

Family guardians must finish an 8-hour course on guardianship, whereas professionals must complete a 40-hour course, pass a test, and complete extra continuing education courses.

All guardians are required to provide initial and yearly reports to the court covering medical care, treatment, and finances, as well as any activities undertaken to improve the ability of the ward.

Space for Further Progress

There is always more that can be done to safeguard the most vulnerable Floridians. In reaction to an event in which a professional guardian reportedly disregarded a patient’s end-of-life requests, the Florida legislature enacted a law requiring guardians to get a court order before discontinuing life-sustaining care.

Likewise, confidentiality is vital. To preserve the adult’s privacy, dignity, and money, many details of guardianship proceedings in Florida are kept private.

As attorneys who are frequently assigned to represent the alleged incapacitated person in such matters, we know that the right to privacy is vital to safeguarding the individual while maintaining an appropriate balance between public access to information and the right to privacy.

All Florida judicial circuits will be able to ascertain how many cases are now being managed by each professional guardian because Florida elder law attorneys are collaborating with several clerks’ offices to improve the reporting system.

On this basis, we want to avoid systemic abuse while ensuring that professional guardians are able to adequately protect the people in their charge.

We continue to urge legislators to pass laws conforming to the safeguards afforded by the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protection Proceedings Jurisdiction Act, which makes the guardianship process more streamlined and less confusing for all parties involved.

Florida may make the system even more protective and successful by adopting Uniform Guardianship along with the other 46 states. We set the bar on so many other fronts that we cannot allow our state to fall behind in this area.

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