Guardianship Vs. Conservatorship In Florida
You may hear the terms “guardianship” and “conservatorship” thrown around somewhat like synonyms, but they have very different meanings and applications. Adding to the confusion is the fact that in some states a conservatorship is actually more like a guardianship. This is, however, not the case in Florida. If you have a family member that is missing or incapacitated, it is important to understand the difference between these two legal structures to that you can make sure to pursue the one that actually meets the needs of both you and the family member it is intended for. Both of these legal mechanisms are intended to be protective and in the best interest of the individual, but they also involve a significant restriction of that person’s rights and liberties, so it’s important only to utilize them when it is truly necessary or in their best interest to do so.
What is Guardianship in Florida?
Under Florida law, guardianship involves giving a designated individual (the guardian) control over another person (their ward)’s financial decisions. Sometimes the guardian will also have the power to make medical decisions on behalf of their ward if so required. A guardianship is only considered by the court in cases where the ward is incapacitated and unable to make decisions on their own. They may be incapacitated due to physical injury, illness, or mental health issues. Most cases in which an individual needs someone else to act on their behalf and in their best interest will fall under this category. It is important to note that the guardian has a fiduciary duty to their ward, and cannot act in any way that would conflict with their ward’s financial and best interests.
What is Conservatorship in Florida?
In Florida, conservatorship has a very different meaning than it does in most other states. Whereas in many states conservatorship has a meaning more similar to guardianship or even broader, in which a conservator has the ability to make financial, medical, and other decisions on behalf of their ward as deemed necessary by the court, in Florida, conservatorship does not apply to incapacitated individuals. Rather, the only people eligible to receive a conservator under Florida law are “absentees.” Absentees are people who have gone missing but have not been reported dead. They may be military personnel who are missing in action, family members who have vanished, or individuals who are presumed to have gone missing due to mental health issues or dementia and are unable to be located. Often, these individuals still have financial matters that need to be taken care of, so a conservator may be appointed to handle these matters in their absence.
Contact the Law Offices of Larry Bray to Schedule a Consultation
If you are in need of a guardianship or conservatorship to care for an incapacitated or missing loved one, it is important to consult with a West Palm Beach estate planning attorney before taking any action. Contact the Law Offices of Larry Bray and schedule your consultation today.