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Paul E. Riffel Tampa Estate Planning Attorney

Tampa Surrogate Decision Making Attorney

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 Tampa surrogate attorney can help streamline the proceedings and ensure that the incapacitated person’s rights and interests are protected.

Tampa 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, a Tampa guardianship 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 Tampa limited partnership attorney can help you decide if a limited guardianship is the best option for you and your family.


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, our Tampa conservatorship attorneys 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 Tampa surrogate decision attorney Paul Riffel at (813) 265-1185 to schedule an initial consultation.

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