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New state office to oversee professional guardians

Starting in 2015, efforts got underway in Florida to reform the state’s guardianship program. The call for change was led by those who voiced concerns about the financial exploitation and abuse of elders at the hands of those who were tasked with protecting them and their assets. Investigative reports were launched, identifying several issues in detail.

Finally, a bill introduced into the state legislature has been passed. As a result, the Office of Public and Professional Guardianships will be created and funded by the state. More than $800,000 has been earmarked for this endeavor. The new department will establish guardianship practice standards and have the authority to enforce those standards. Enforcement may include revocation of a guardian’s license in some cases.

Currently, a person can receive a guardianship license after completing a mere 40 hours of training and successfully passing both criminal and credit checks. Between 2003 and 2015, the number of guardians grew by more than four times from 108 to 457. The new legislation was backed by the Governor, the Florida State Guardianship Association, and Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship. As the bill was being approved, some people made the effort to officially protect against abuse perpetrated by legal guardians.

Residents in Florida who may themselves someday need a guardian or who know someone who does will no doubt want to watch the development of the new office. It may also be helpful to discuss potential issues with an experienced attorney to understand how to stay protected against financial exploitation.

 

Source: MyPalmBeachPost.com, “Florida guardianship reform passes; seniors protect at courthouse,” John Pacenti, February 24, 2016

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