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My father is incapacitated: I need to establish guardianship

When the natural process of aging takes its course, there comes a time in all of our lives when we are no longer able to take care of ourselves. For this reason, everyone should set up a power of attorney that gives permission to a trusted person to take care of your medical and financial decisions in the event of incapacitation.

However, what happens if your aging father never created a power of attorney, and now he's so incapacitated that he cannot complete such a document on his own? It may be time to establish guardianship over your parent.

Establishing guardianship in Florida

When you have guardianship over your parent, a Florida court will see you as the surrogate decision-maker. When you have guardianship, you can make financial decisions on behalf of your elderly parent.

In order to receive guardianship, you must file a petition with the court that shows your parent suffers from impairment to the degree that he or she cannot make decisions. The court will only award guardianship in the event that an alternative relationship, like a durable power of attorney or a health care surrogate relationship, is not available and/or sufficient to meet the needs of the incapacitated adult.

Limited guardianship could be an option

Florida courts will try to give the ward (or person who needs guardianship) as much decision-making power as he or she can still maintain. As such, those seeking guardianship might receive a limited guardianship if the adult is still capable of making some decisions.

Voluntary and involuntary guardianships

In the case of a completely incapacitated adult, the person seeking guardianship will have to prove his or her case. However, there is another avenue known as voluntary guardianship. In this case, the ward voluntarily provides guardianship powers to a trusted adult even though he or she is mentally competent.

Know your rights and responsibilities as a guardian

Guardians have a special duty to take care of another human being. As such, once you assume the role of guardian, your actions on behalf of your ward could be scrutinized and reviewed by the court on a regular basis. The more you know about being a guardian and other laws that apply to Florida estates and estate planning, the better off you'll be of fulfilling your duties completely and competently in the eyes of the court.

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