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A look at guardianships in Florida - Part I

Do you have a plan for your estate after you die? If you're like a lot of our readers, you may have said yes. Most people have a will already drafted by the time they retire because they know how important it is to have a plan in place just in case something unfortunate happens to them later on. But now we're going to ask a question you may not have considered: do you have a plan in place just in case you become incapacitated?

It's probably not a question you've even thought about even though it's an incredibly important one to consider. That's because, if a person becomes incapacitated and has not established a power of attorney or does not have any health care directives that state otherwise, a guardian must be appointed by the court. If you didn't know this then you should keep reading because this is the topic we are going to touch on in today's post.

The first question most people have is: what is a guardian? According to the Florida Bar, "a guardian is an individual or institution (such as a nonprofit corporation or bank trust department) appointed by the court to care for an incapacitated person -- called a "ward" -- or for the ward's assets." A guardianship is established through legal proceedings after a person is determined to be incapacitated by a medical examination.

In most cases, a family member or close relative is granted guardianship rights, which gives them the authority to handle the ward's property in the best interest of the ward. It's important to point out that a person can establish their own guardian through a declaration of pre-need guardian or at a hearing prior to incapacitation if they so wish.

There is a lot more to a guardianship than just establishing it though, which is something we are going to look into next week when we talk about the legal responsibilities of a guardian and how a guardian's rights can be taken away.

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