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How can I protect my disabled family member using a guardianship?

Roughly 50 million people across the United States have some form of disability, with almost 25 million classified as severely limited in their functioning.  Being the parent, spouse, or relative of a person with a disability can be challenging.  One of your greatest roles as the family member of a disabled person is being an advocate, but without legal decision-making authority, fulfilling this role can be difficult.  Our Tampa estate planning attorneys at Verras Law discuss guardianships and how a guardianship could assist your family below.

What is a Guardianship?

A guardianship is a legal process by which one person or entity is appointed to make decisions for another.  While guardianships can be used in several instances, they are especially common when it comes to individuals with mental or physical disabilities that impose limitations on their ability to take care of themselves, earn a living, or live independently.  Florida courts will attempt to limit a guardianship as much as possible to allow the disabled person, referred to as the ward once adjudicated under guardianship, to maintain freedom.  

The Powers of a Guardian

Your role as a guardian will vary depending on the needs of your disabled relative.  Guardianships in Florida can be limited or restricted to certain areas as well as plenary or general.  Guardians may be granted the following powers:

  • To make medical decisions for the ward;
  • To make financial decisions for the ward;
  • Ensuring educational and medical services are adequate;
  • Assuring the ward’s care is maintained and adequate;
  • Submitting updates on the ward’s condition to the court, including the ward’s living situation, mental and physical health, and a list of services being provided.

Guardians are not required to provide input on every aspect of their disabled relative’s life.  Rather, the guardian makes decisions when necessary and provides consent if the ward cannot do so him or herself.  

Guardianships can be voluntary or involuntary.  If you are the loved one of a person with a disability that limits his or her ability to make critical life decisions, contact a Florida estate planning attorney to discuss the possibility of a guardianship.  With a guardianship, you can ensure your loved one receives the best of care while still living as independently as possible.