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If you or a loved one has become unable to make healthcare decisions or manage legal or financial affairs, a guardianship may be in order. A guardian is a person appointed by the court to protect and exercise the legal rights of a person who is unable to make his or her own decisions and who has not planned for this contingency through a power of attorney or other estate planning documents. For over two decades, attorney Mark Shalloway has been helping establish guardianships for people in West Palm Beach stricken with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other disabilities which render them unable to manage their own affairs. Below is a brief overview of the process for guardianship in Florida.
The first step in the Florida guardianship process is to file a petition with the court. Normally, you would expect a concerned family member to file a petition for guardianship of a loved one. Under the law, however, any competent adult is authorized to file a petition regarding any other person. The petitioner must be able to state why he or she thinks a guardianship is necessary.
When a petition is filed with the court, the court appoints a three-member examining committee to evaluate the alleged incapacitated person and report back to the court on whether the person actually lacks capacity to make their own decisions or not. The guardianship examining committee will include a psychiatrist or other physician, as well as other health care professionals (doctors or nurses) and social workers or others qualified by education, training or experience.
The report of the examination committee is discussed at a hearing in court, where the judge will make the final determination whether the person is incapacitated or not. If the judge decides that the person is indeed incapacitated, the judge will determine whether a guardianship is appropriate, or if there are any less restrictive alternatives available.
If a guardianship is deemed appropriate, the court will appoint a guardian and issue Letters of Guardianship, which is a legal document that spells out the powers and duties of the guardian and authorizes the guardian to act on behalf of the ward.
The alleged incapacitated person is represented by an attorney appointed by the court throughout the examination and hearing process. In addition, a guardian must be represented by an attorney in accordance with Florida Probate Rules. For help establishing a guardianship in West Palm Beach, contact attorney Mark Shalloway of Shalloway & Shalloway, P.A. at 561-686-6200.