Protecting what matters most

According to a 2019 report by the Alzheimer’s Association, one in 10 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s dementia.   In fact one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.  Those figures emphasize the importance of planning for the possible loss of independence.    An appointment of a preneed guardian, the execution of a durable power of attorney, or the creation of revocable trust may eliminate the need for a court-appointed guardian and a  guardianship which is often the only solution when estate planning is delayed past a loved one’s ability to make self- directed decisions.

Even after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia and the beginning of a loss of short term memory, adults often can continue to function for a period of time and allows time for consideration of alternatives to a formal guardianship.  However, if the person is being financially exploited, no longer has the capacity to make their own decisions or is unable to care for themselves, the family should immediately seek assistance in setting up a guardianship. A guardianship will also be required if the person is no longer competent to understand and execute estate planning documents and is incapacitated.

The guardianship process is the court’s appointment of a person to act for the benefit of an incapacitated person.  A guardian is the one who acts for the benefit of that person. A ward is the individual who needs assistance of a guardian to manage their property or make their own healthcare decisions.

The guardianship process in Florida requires representation by an attorney. The initial step is the filing of two separate petitions – a Petition to Determine Incapacity and a Petition for Appointment of Guardian.

A Petition to Determine Incapacity asks the court to evaluate an adult’s ability to manage their own assets and make their own healthcare decisions. The adult who is being evaluated is called in Alleged Incapacitated Person (AIP). If the person is declared incompetent, they are then referred to as the Ward.

The Petition for Appointment of Guardian is the second petition filed by the attorney. The petition asks the court to appoint a guardian for the AIP. The attorney then advises the court whether the person needs a guardianship and whether the proposed guardian is in the best interest of the alleged incapacitated person.

If you would like a free family assessment for assuring that your estate planning, real estate, long term care, and death directives are in place, call Attorney Linda Carley at 386-281-3340. Linda Carley has more than thirty years of legal experience, including serving as a probate judge.