What is the Difference Between Guardianship and Conservatorship in Florida?
Many people use the words guardianship and conservatorship interchangeably, as though they are synonyms. However, under Florida law, these terms have different meanings and applications. In fact, the way that guardianship and conservatorship are defined under Florida law even differs from the majority of other states, which can add to the confusion while also emphasizing the need to always check the laws of your state before pursuing any kind of legal remedy. If you have a vulnerable or incapacitated family member and are looking for a way to legally take over some of their decision-making or handling of financial or medical matters, it is important to understand the difference between these two legal mechanisms so that you can choose the one that best fits your specific needs as well as theirs. As you will see, the situations in which each of these are appropriate differ greatly, and only very niche situations will qualify for conservatorship under Florida law.
What is a Conservatorship in Florida?
In Florida, unlike the majority of other states, a conservatorship does not apply to incapacitated individuals. Rather, it applies only when a family member is missing, classified legally as an “absentee.” Absentees are literally absent, and efforts to locate them must have been unsuccessful. There also can be no record of their death. Examples of absentees are people who are missing due to mental illness or cognitive impairment, such as those who wandered off with dementia and have not been located since. Military members who are missing in action but have not been determined to be deceased also qualify as absentees under the law. Essentially anyone who has vanished without a trace and is no longer using their bank account. These individuals often still have bills to pay and financial matters that need to be attended to, so a conservator can be appointed to handle these matters until the individual is located and can resume the responsibility themselves.
What is a Guardianship in Florida?
A guardianship gives the guardian the legal authority to make financial decisions on behalf of an incapacitated individual (known as their ward). In some cases, the guardian may also have the ability to make medical decisions on behalf of their ward if the court determines it to be necessary. A guardian has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of their ward in all respects. A guardian cannot make financial decisions that conflict with the best interest of their ward, and can be held legally responsible for doing so. The court must determine the ward incapacitated, either due to severe physical illness, cognitive impairment, or mental health issues. If the ward ceases to be incapacitated they can motion to have the guardianship terminated.
Contact the SG Firm
If you have a family member or loved one in need of legal support, the experienced estate attorneys at the SG Firm can help you determine the best course of action to support them. Contact the SG Firm today to schedule a consultation.