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How Guardianship Can Help You Prevent Elder Abuse

Florida is a popular retirement destination and can be the perfect place for your parents to live out their remaining years in comfort. Unfortunately, a high number of senior citizens also attracts people who prey on older Americans, making Florida a hotspot of elder abuse.

If your parent was diagnosed with a progressive health condition or has lost the ability to live independently, you need to act as soon as possible to secure your loved one’s health and finances.

Establishing elder guardianship in FL

The Benefits of Guardianship in Florida

In order to protect vulnerable individuals from scams or ill-treatment, Florida law allows a guardian to make decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person. When you establish guardianship, you're legally authorized to take control of your ward’s finances, living situation, and other vital details necessary to keep them safe.

We can help you protect your loved one from:

  • Unscrupulous people who would act as guardian. The longer your loved one declines, the more likely it is that someone else will seek court-appointed guardianship. This could be a close relative, a caregiver, or even a stranger whose goals aren't in the ward’s best interests. The wrong guardian could drain your loved one’s life savings, sell off their home and other assets, and prevent them from seeing or speaking with you for help. Once the state courts have approved a guardian, it's extremely difficult to challenge the decision.
  • Unsafe living conditions. Elderly people face risks of injury regardless of where they live, but some hazards might not be immediately apparent. A relative may seem fine living alone, but may suddenly lose heat or running water after simply forgetting to pay bills. Many older people reside in the family home, which may have outdated wiring, pest infestations, or tripping and fire hazards. If your loved one was placed in a substandard nursing home, caregivers may overlook unsanitary conditions or allow your relative to wear clothing unsuitable for the weather. Your ability to make decisions about your loved one’s housing and daily activities can prevent nursing home neglect and improve quality of life.
  • Financial exploitation. Financial control over your loved one’s affairs has two major advantages: it allows you to pay bills on their behalf and prevents scammers and family members from gaining access to their funds. You're required to provide an accounting of all activities, but will be able to cover costs for services and manage your relative’s real estate and assets on your own.
  • Lack of adequate medical care. Nursing home facilities, medical professionals, and even your loved one may ignore signs and symptoms of worsening health conditions. Your relative might not notice if they're overcharged or double-billed for medical services, sold fraudulent remedies for illnesses, or given sedatives in order to make them more docile. As a court-appointed guardian, you're able to provide consent for medical treatments and take control of all of your loved one’s healthcare and end-of-life decisions.

The Elder Exploitation Injuction

In addition to a guardianship action, you may need to look to an elder exploitation injuction.  This can be very helpful to families and loved ones to help prevent and stop exploitation as it occurs! You may want or need to seek an injunction and file a guardianship at the same time, for instance.

Good Estate Planning May Make Guardianship Unnecessary

The best way to prevent guardianship proceedings is with thorough and proper estate planning. If your loved one created an estate plan with a living trust or durable power of attorney, they may already have chosen someone to manage their financial or legal affairs when they're incapacitated. However, these are situations where guardianship may still be needed even if your relative created legal documents to plan for incapacity, such as a dementia diagnosis.

Even with the best laid plans, good estate planning, such creating a durable power of attorney, cannot always prevent a guardianship.

If you cannot locate these documents, or the chosen guardian isn't fit to serve, we can help you establish guardianship and prepare for the requirements of providing for your ward. Let the attorneys at DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis advise you on your next steps to protect an at-risk elder in Florida. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up a consultation and get answers to your questions.

 

Kevin J. Wimmer
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Florida Guardianship and Probate Attorney