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Abuse prompts change in Florida's elder guardianships

As Florida residents age, some may find that a guardian is appointed to them. Although the idea is usually well-meant, allegations of abuse, both financial and of the guardianship system itself, have been made. This has prompted states, such as Florida, to reconsider the way they handle their guardians.

Approximately 1.5 million seniors have guardians nationwide according to NextAvenue. This means that their estate or personal decisions are managed by a court-appointed person. Abuses in the guardianship system stem from a variety of causes. Finding the money for professional guardians and getting judges who truly understand the system is a continual problem. Many states also do not require background checks or track how guardians use a senior’s money. As 80 percent of guardians in the U.S. are family members, this trend is worrying. One lawyer says that many cases of guardianship include the contesting of a senior’s will. Currently, guardian-controlled money is only monitored by two states. Florida is not one of them.

Attorneys experienced in guardianships have identified the courts as a large part of the problem. New legislation often does not reach rural areas, leaving seniors under guidelines that no longer apply. One attorney notes that the guardianship process is sometimes more than courts can manage, as guardianship cases require monitoring over time.

In Florida, family members bringing forth allegations of abuse have encouraged closer monitoring of guardians. According to Capital News Service, Florida guardians have been accused of receiving profitable cases from judges they are close to. Guardians will be regulated under new legislation, which could take effect as soon as October. Under the new law, a guardian may be investigated for failure to follow state guidelines and possibly have his or her license revoked.

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