Paul E. Riffel, Attorney at Law
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Tampa Guardianship Attorney

Illness and injury can cause many individuals to become incapable of handling their own affairs. In such situations, it may be necessary to request the appointment of a legal guardian by the courts. An appointed guardian would then have the responsibility to manage the affairs of the incapacitated adult, known as the “ward,” until they become capable of doing so for themselves. Guardianship is only an option when there is no other legal alternative, such as a trust, durable power of attorney, health care proxy, or other legal measures that the incapacitated adult had put in place for management of their affairs in this type of situation.

Seeking guardianship can be a complex and emotionally draining process though the assistance of an experienced Tampa guardianship attorney can ease the stress of the process and ensure your loved one receives the care and guidance they need.

In certain situations, when individuals are incapacitated to the degree that they cannot manage their own affairs, courts will appoint a surrogate to make financial and health-related decisions for that individual. Because taking away someone’s ability to make their own decisions is such a serious infringement on an individual’s rights, appointing guardians and conservators is a lengthy and arduous process. Seeking the advice of an experienced attorney can help streamline the proceedings and ensure that the incapacitated person’s rights and interests are protected.

Florida Guardianship

In Florida, guardianship is a process that allows an appointed individual, known as a guardian, to exercise the legal rights of a ward, or someone a court has found to be unable to manage his or her own affairs.

In order to be qualified to serve as a guardian in Florida, a person must be over the age of 18 and a resident of the state. Alternatively, a non-resident can also be appointed as a guardian if he or she is:

  • Related by direct descent to the ward;
  • A legally adopted child or adoptive parent of the ward;
  • A spouse, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece, or nephew of the ward, or someone related by lineal consanguinity to any such person; or
  • The spouse of a person otherwise qualified above; and
  • Has never been convicted of a felony.

An individual who wants to become a guardian must file three documents:

  • A Petition to Determine Incapacity;
  • A Petition for Appointment of a Guardian; and
  • An Application for Appointment as a Guardian.

After a Petition to Determine Incapacity is filed, the court will appoint three members to serve on an examining committee, one of whom will be a physician or psychiatrist. The other members must also be medical professionals who are experts on the type of incapacity suffered by the individual in question. Each will meet with the allegedly incapacitated person and submit written reports on their findings to the court. If you wish to have a guardian appointed for an incapacitated loved one, or if someone is seeking to appoint a guardian for you, an attorney can help to ensure both that rights are protected and that personal care, financial, and medical issues are not neglected. 

Limited Guardianship

Florida law requires that the court find the least restrictive form of guardianship possible to preserve as many of the ward’s rights it is able. Limited guardians are appointed to facilitate the exercise of delegable rights while also allowing the incapacitated party to make some decisions concerning their finances, education, and relationships. These types of guardianships are usually created when a court finds that a ward lacks the capacity to do some, but not all, tasks necessary to care for his or her person or property. An experienced elder care lawyer can help you decide if a limited guardianship is the best option for you and your family.

Conservatorship

Conservators have the same responsibilities as guardians, but are appointed on behalf of an absentee. An absentee is an individual who has disappeared because of amnesia, derangement, or other mental illness, or under circumstances indicating that he or she has passed away.

In order to become a conservator in Florida, a person must:

  • Furnish evidence that he or she would hold an interest in the estate of the absentee in the event that the person were deceased; and
  • Prove that he or she is dependent upon the missing person for maintenance or support.

If you wish to establish a conservatorship in Florida, an attorney can help you prove that one is warranted and can help you manage your duties if you are appointed as a conservator.

If you lives in the Tampa, Brandon, Riverview, or Hillsborough County areas and have questions or concerns about establishing or terminating a guardianship or conservatorship, please contact elder law attorney Paul Riffel at (813) 265-1185 to schedule an initial consultation.

Types Of Guardianship In Tampa

Florida law recognizes two types of guardianship: limited and plenary. In a limited guardianship, the guardian makes decisions regarding only some of the ward’s affairs, as the court has determined the ward still has the ability to manage certain types of tasks. A plenary guardianship, on the other hand, gives the guardian the power to exercise full legal control over all of the incapacitated individual’s affairs. Some of these affairs may include:

  • Medical treatment;
  • Application for medical benefits;
  • Choice of residence;
  • Appropriation of assets;
  • Income and debt management;
  • Protection of assets and property;
  • Business decisions; and
  • Release of information.

The law intends that a guardianship be limited to the least restrictive form. In addition, all decisions for the ward must be made in line with any existing health care directives or other end of life instructions. It is important that the guardian be capable and willing to make decisions in the best interests of the ward with no self-serving intentions, therefore appointment should be carefully considered.

How A Guardianship Attorney Can Help You

Whether you want to seek a guardianship or you have already been appointed legal guardian, a guardianship lawyer can assist you in many different ways, including:

  • Initiating guardianship proceedings;
  • Representation in court proceedings to determine incapacity;
  • Helping to choose an appropriate guardian;
  • Ensuring a guardian complies with the requirements of the position, including annual accounting of the estate and submitting reports to the court; and
  • Legally terminating a guardianship if the ward regains capacity or passes away.

Schedule An Appointment With A Tampa Guardianship Attorney Today

The need for a guardianship can be emotionally difficult for both the incapacitated individual and family members seeking the guardianship. Additionally, once guardianship is granted, the appointed individual may have many questions regarding the legal requirements of their role. Tampa guardianship attorney Paul E. Riffel understands how difficult guardianship can be and will help you navigate the process to make the situation as easy on you and your family as possible. If you would like to discuss a potential or existing guardianship today, please do not hesitate to call our office at 813-265-1185 for help.

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Paul E. Riffel, Attorney at Law

Paul Riffel Law is located in Tampa FL and serves clients in and around Brandon, Tampa, Valrico, Odessa, Thonotosassa, Gibsonton, Sydney, Dover, Land O Lakes, Oldsmar, Apollo Beach, Lithia, Safety Harbor, Trilby, Plant City, Durant, Holiday, Hillsborough County and Pasco County.

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