What Is Guardianship?

A legal guardian is someone who has the legal authority to care for someone else. Legal guardianship is often used for incapacitated seniors, developmentally disabled adults, and minors.

Guardian Responsibilities

Legal guardians generally have the right to make legal decisions on behalf of their "ward." Guardians may have the power to:
  • Assure the availability of care
  • Make financial decisions
  • Make medical decisions
  • Ensure educational and medical services are adequate
  • Submit updates to the court regarding the ward's condition
  • Guardian Qualifications

    A guardian must be:
  • A legal adult
  • Cannot have a felony or gross misdemeanor record
  • Be healthy and mentally stable
  • Preferably chosen based on the wishes of the ward (adults)
  • Understanding Guardianship

    What is Guardianship?
    Guardianship is a legal proceeding in which a person/guardian is appointed to exercise the legal rights of an incapacitated person. An incapacitated person is an adult who, by legal determination, is unable to manage at least some of his or her property, or meet at least some essential health and safety requirements.
    How is a person determined to be Incapacitated?
    Any adult can file a petition with the court to determine another person's incapacity. The court will appoint a committee of 3 members, which may include physicians and other people who have the knowledge, skill, and training to form and expert opinion. A physical, mental, and functional examination are completed on the person in question.
    Who can serve as a Guardian?
    Any adult resident of Florida can serve as a guardian so long as they have not been convicted of a felony or are incapable of carrying out the duties of a guardian. Most often, guardians are family members, close friends, professional or public guardians. Legally, any guardian must be appointed by the state, and the court gives consideration to the wishes expressed by the incapacitated person in a written declaration of pre-need guardian or at the hearing.
    What does a guardian do?
    A guardian who has authority over property is required to inventory the property, invest it prudently, use it for the ward's support, and account for it by filing detailed annual reports with the court. Certain financial transactions must get court approval before a guardian can complete them. Guardians may ensure the ward has medical, mental and person care services, and determine the place and kind of living setting best suited for the ward. Guardians provide the court with annual plans detailing the ward's care, as well as a physician's report.
    How is a Guardian accountable?
    A guardian must be represented by an attorney who will serve as "attorney or record." Guardians are usually required to furnish a bond and may be required to complete a court-approved training program.
    Is Guardianship permanent?
    Guardianship does not have to be permanent. If a ward recovers and is no longer incapacitated, a petition can be filed to restore their rights. A guardian may be removed if they fail to carry out their duties or becomes ineligible to act as guardian. A guardian may also resign by giving notice to the court.