Making decisions for one’s self is an important part of being an adult, whether those decisions relate to what to have for dinner or which hospital to choose for an important medical procedure. This independence is important to Florida residents and it is difficult to imagine a time when one would not be able to make one’s own decisions. But many do not realize a sudden accident such a car accident leading to a brain injury or a slow degenerative disease can deprive someone of the ability to make decisions for themselves. And if their estate plan does not contain power of attorneys, healthcare surrogates or some other form of directives, courts may end up appointing a guardian for an incapacitated individual.
A surrogate decision maker appointed by the court to make personal or financial decisions for someone else is called a guardian. In addition to minors, guardians can be appointed for adults if the court finds that the person is too impaired to make decisions for themselves.
In Florida, guardianships can be plenary as well as limited. If the court finds that an adult can make some but not all their own decisions, a limited guardianship may be created if other instructions cannot be found in an estate plan. A plenary guardianship may be created if the court finds someone is incapacitated and cannot make any decisions for oneself.
With a guardianship comes the responsibility of protecting the ward. This responsibility can be better met if a ward themselves appoints someone knowledgeable, experienced or compassionate to make important financial or medical decisions on their behalf. Speaking to an experienced attorney to find out whether one’s estate plan is thorough or not may be one way to begin protecting one’s interests.