New Guardianship Bill Could Protect Florida Seniors
Legal guardians play an important role in the life of our senior citizens. When a person can no longer take care of themselves or make legal decision, then another person can step in and fill that role. In many situations, guardianship involves a spouse or child taking over an elderly person’s affairs. However, anyone can serve as a guardian, even non-relatives, and wards can be of any age.
Florida’s troubled guardianship program has been in the news lately. Now, the state legislature is set to take up a bill that would provide protection for seniors.
Judicial Approval for Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Orders
One professional guardian, Rebecca Fierle, made the news recently for signing DNRs without the approval of her wards or even notifying family members. When a DNR is in place, doctors will not provide life-saving treatment such as CPR or life support.
As reported by MyNews 13, the new bill under consideration would outlaw this practice. Under the new law, a guardian would need the court’s permission to put a DNR in place for a ward. In theory, this would prevent abuse, since a judge can hold a hearing on the issue. Judges can also decline to approve a DNR if there is insufficient evidence an incapacitated ward would want one.
Reporting Requirements for Payments
The guardianship relationship often presents the opportunity for financial exploitation. If a guardian gets control of someone’s finances, then he or she can often write checks with little oversight. Some guardians have even sold a ward’s home for below the market value. The bill under consideration would put in place detailed reporting requirements regarding payments.
Limiting the Use of Professional Guardians
Many guardians are loving family members who step reluctantly into the role. However, Florida also allows professional guardians—people who are unrelated to the ward who agree to serve in this capacity and who do so for a fee. The Department of Elder Affairs hires some professional guardians who will serve in this capacity for those without family members or the funds to pay their own guardian.
The new bill would limit this practice by making it harder for people to petition a court to be named a guardian if they are unrelated to the ward. This change would not affect most people; however, if you have no surviving family members, then this change could impact who can serve and the process for getting them appointed.
Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Citizens
The ability to make decisions for oneself can erode slowly over time or suddenly, as with the onset of dementia or stroke. If you have a loved one who you are concerned about, you should meet with an attorney to discuss potential guardianship. The process is not overly cumbersome, but you would benefit from legal guidance.
At Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group, our practice is devoted to elder law. Our skilled and compassionate Central Florida guardianship attorneys understand the complexity of the guardianship laws in Florida and how to petition the court to create a guardianship. Contact us today, 800-743-9732, to schedule a free consultation with a member of our law firm. We serve The Villages exclusively.