A Brief Guide to the Responsibilities of a Legal Guardian

A guardianship is a legal provision to protect the interests of a person (referred to as a ward) who is considered incapable of managing their own affairs. Appointed by the court, guardians are granted authority to make healthcare and financial decisions, as well as other decisions that affect the ward’s day to day life. But they are also bound by a duty to act in the best interest of their ward. Some decisions that the guardian makes will require approval by the court, and others won’t.

Who needs a guardian?

Both children and adults can be given or appointed a guardian: children because they are not yet legally independent, non-senior adults because of a developmental or physical disability, and seniors due to infirmity or incapacity. A guardian can be appointed specifically for the person of the ward, the estate of the ward, or both.

Personal Guardianship

A personal guardianship includes making decisions regarding the personal needs of the ward such as medical and dental care, living and school arrangements, and other issues concerning their day-to-day care and comfort.

Financial Guardianship

A financial guardianship concerns the management and oversight of the property, estate, and financial affairs of the ward in such a way as to benefit them. Making investments, managing assets, filing tax returns, and providing an accounting to the court are all part of the duties of the guardian of the estate.

Children

All children must have a legal guardian until the age of majority in whatever state they live. However, an exception to this would be an emancipated minor. In Florida, the law requires minor children to be provided with guardians when their parents either die or become incapacitated, or they receive money over a certain amount through inheritance or as a payout from a lawsuit or insurance policy.  

Parents can designate in their wills who they want to care for their minor children in the event of parental death. Otherwise, the court will make that decision for them and there are no guarantees about to whom the children will go to, or if they will even be placed together.

If you have sole custody of your children, and you want to name a guardian who is not the other parent, an attorney can advise you on your legal options.

Disabled Adults

Guardians for a disabled adult can make practical decisions such as the type of residence in which their ward will live, and ensuring both the comfort and safety of the home. The guardian can make medical decisions and arrange for necessary treatment, apply for benefits such as health insurance, and be an advocate for legal rights. The idea is not to micromanage, but to assist in areas that are beyond the ward’s capabilities and to help facilitate their independence and self-reliance as much as possible.

Senior Adults

Elderly guardianship is commonly referred to as a conservatorship and is invoked when an aging person is no longer able to make meaningful or informed decisions about their own care. Should the proposed ward be deemed incapacitated, the court will then appoint a guardian. The court can order a full guardianship, or limit the scope to a specific area, such as with financial or medical matters.

Being a legal guardian comes with a high degree of responsibility and care. It can be both an honor and a challenge. Good legal counsel can help you carry out your duties to the best of your ability, and the legal team at Louis E. Barreto & Associates is here to assist in doing just that. Call us today at (305) 358-1771.

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Written by Luis E. Barreto

Luis E. Barreto

Luis is a probate and guardianship litigator with over 23 years of experience in the field. Determination of heirs, will contests, breaches of fiduciary duty, removal of personal representatives, guardians and trustees are just some of the types of litigation he addresses. In addition, he administers non-contested estates and guardianships.