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Guardianship reform getting attention in Florida

Concerns about guardianships over elderly persons have garnered much attention in Florida this year. A proposed reform bill failed to pass the state legislature yet residents have not seen the end of this effort. A state senator has vowed to make guardianship reform as it pertains to elder law a priority for the next legislative session notes the Herald Tribune.

Among the changes proposed in the bill is the creation of an Office of Public and Professional Guardians. This group would be tasked with the certification and supervision of court-appointed guardians. Additionally, the bill seeks to develop a complaint department through which residents and family members can communicate alleged problems with a particular guardian or situation. The Department of Elder Affairs has been involved in estimating the costs involved with a complaint department.

At the present time, anyone can petition the court to appoint a guardian over a person in Florida according to the Herald Tribune. When a request is received, a temporary guardianship is commonly established promptly, even before the intended ward is evaluated. From that point, a three-person panel reviews each case. A majority rule approach is used to determine whether or not someone is an incapacitated individual.

Guardians have full legal authority over wards’ medical care and finances. They must provide accountings to the court but otherwise the information is confidential—even from wards and their relatives. These are some of the concerns that have led to the introduction of the reform bill. The state senator introducing the new bill has indicated a hope that starting the process early in the session will be beneficial.

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