Guardianship is a legal relationship in which the principal acts to the benefit of the ward. The guardian may be a relative or a responsible person appointed by the court, while the ward may be a minor or an adult who has become incapacitated. The relationship is often temporary, until the ward is able to make her or his own decisions, but may be permanent if the recovery of full capacity is unlikely.
The Law Office of Jeffrey A. Attia, PA counsels wards and guardians on their rights and obligations during the guardianship relationship throughout Fort Myers and South Florida. We also assist individuals in drafting directives to name their guardian in case of incapacitation and help parents assign guardians in their wills. Our firm can answer your specific questions or be involved throughout the process of establishing and administering the guardianship relationship.
Guardianship of an Incapacitated Adult
An adult who becomes seriously ill or injured may not be able to make decisions regarding finances, health care or even end-of-life matters. When this occurs, a guardian is appointed to make decisions that conform to the ward’s wishes. The guardian may be named in a directive that was created while the ward had the capacity. However, if the ward has not appointed a guardian, the court has the authority to do so.
Guardianship may be limited or plenary. As the name suggests, limited guardianship is restricted to the administration of specific matters, such as health care or finances. In the case of plenary guardianship, the guardian has the legal right to handle all aspects of the ward’s affairs.
In all cases, the court seeks the least restrictive level of control. For example, the court might appoint a guardian for the limited purpose of paying bills if the ward is capable of making sound decisions about her day-to-day physical care, but is not able to handle financial matters. A plenary guardian would be appropriate for a person who is in a coma or has severe dementia. Once the person regains capacity, the guardianship ends.
Guardianship of Minors
The law recognizes that minors lack the capacity and maturity to make certain decisions. Parents are, therefore, expected to guide their children and make important decisions on their behalf. However, when both parents are unable to care for their child, because of death or other reasons, a guardian may be appointed by the court to take on the crucial decision-making role.
Decisions regarding the guardianship of minors are crucial. Our firm encourages parents to name a guardian in their wills to ensure that a person of their choice will be appointed. Unless the named guardian does not qualify, the court typically abides by the parents’ wishes. In making the appointment, the court primarily considers what is in the child’s best interests.
Approval of Minor Settlements
Unlike settlements involving adults, the approval of minor settlements is much more intricate. The court may appoint a guardian ad litem to review settlements involving minor plaintiffs. The guardian ad litem in this situation is typically an attorney who is knowledgeable about the process and can recommend whether the judge should approve the settlement. Depending upon the dollar amount, the appointment may be mandatory or at the court’s discretion.
If You Are a Ward or a Guardian, You Can Rely Upon Our Fort Myers Guardianship Attorney for Sound Advice
If you have questions about your rights and obligations as a guardian or a ward, call The Law Office of Jeffrey A. Attia for assistance at 239.919.2318 or submit an online request. Our Fort Myers guardianship attorney handles all aspects of guardianship appointment, administration and termination.