Florida SB 994: Update to Guardianship Law
Florida Senate Bill 994 passed in the House and Senate during the 2020 Legislative Session and was signed into law by Governor DeSantis last spring. It took effect as of July 2020. SB 994 provides a legislative update to guardianship. In summation, the bill allows the court to investigate the potential guardian and determine if they have a criminal record, are unsavory, owe debt or generally of bad character. Potential guardianship investigations commence to prevent fraud, embezzlement or other property crimes occurring to the ward and their effects or benefits. The bill requires the guardian to apply for the guardianship; a guardian is no longer automatically appointed. It also gives the court leeway in determining if other choices like a trust would better suit the ward’s needs.
Understanding the Guardianship Process
Senate Bill 994 passed to address potential issues with the guardianship process. Child and adult wards could be abused, their funds could be illegally conveyed or guardians may not have the ward’s best interests at hand. The bill also sets limits on professional guardianship appointments. A professional guardian such as an attorney or accountant can only petition for guardianship if the ward is physically or mentally incapacitated. The bill also requires guardians to file an annual guardianship report outlining all payments made from the ward to the guardian in the calendar year. This requirement is an addition to annual filing requirements the guardian must complete, such as a financial statement and request for additional funds to be dispersed from the ward’s fiscal accounts or trust fund.
Most importantly, the bill protects wards from ill-will of unsavory guardians, because it requires a guardian to seek familial or court consent prior to obtaining a do not resuscitate order for the ward. A do not resuscitate order, or DNR is a legal document dictating to medical providers and bystanders that if the ward falls into a coma or is otherwise near death, that they are not to be resuscitated. The bill requires a guardian to state why they should be appointed, how they will protect the ward and the guardian’s relationship to the ward. Now that it has passed, it will protect Florida’s most vulnerable citizens from abuse, manipulation, and fraud.
Why You Should Designate Guardians in Your Will
To best protect the interests of your child or vulnerable relative, you should designate a guardian in writing in a will or trust. If your child or loved one has special needs, consider drafting a special needs trust in addition to naming a guardian. You should notify the potential guardian of the responsibilities entailed including yearly certification and requirements and ensure they are willing to accept the appointment in the event of an emergency or death. Also consider designating a substitute guardian in the event your first choice is unable to serve. Remember your selection should have a personal connection to the ward, and ideally should not have a criminal history. The legislative intent for the bill, now signed into law, is to protect vulnerable parties from malfeasance. Designating a guardian that you trust eliminates concern for abuse or neglect of the minor child or incapacitated adult ward.
Contact Bubley & Bubley, P.A. Today
If you are contemplating whether designating a guardian is the right choice, you have several options available. Depending on your unique circumstances, it may be beneficial to designate a guardian in your living will, trust or other estate document. Certainly, if you have minor children, it is smart to nominate a guardian in the untimely event of your passing. If you need assistance with the estate or probate process including guardianship documents, call our Tampa guardianship attorneys at Bubley & Bubley, P.A. today.