In Florida, a court appointed guardian is held accountable by the court system in multiple ways, thus safe guards have been put in place to protect a ward’s assets and health. Each year the guardian must file an annual accounting with the court, which is first reviewed by the clerk and then sent to the judge for approval. The purpose behind this system is to make sure the guardian is using the ward’s assets solely for the benefit of the ward and for things that are only necessary or reasonable for the ward. An attorney must also represent each guardian. If the clerk or judge finds something is amiss in the annual accounting, then the court will take action. The guardian can then be removed and/or criminally charged. The annual accounting is governed by Florida Statute 744.367 and is required to be filed with the court each year on or before April 1; however, the court can authorize it to be filed by the fiscal year.
Due to the annual accounting requirement, it is important for a guardian to keep a very detailed record of how all of the ward’s assets are being managed and spent. In most situations when the guardianship is initially set up, the guardian will be given a monthly allowance that has been put together with their attorney and has been approved by the court based on the ward’s expected monthly needs. If something comes up that was not expected and the guardian needs additional funds, then the guardian’s attorney will need to file a motion with the court asking for the additional funds, explaining what they are for and that they are necessary and in the best interest of the ward. If the ward’s monthly expenses, increase over time, the guardian’s attorney can also file a motion with the court asking for the monthly allowance to be increased based on the ward’s increased expenses.
Another safeguard that has been put into place to protect a ward’s assets is that guardians are generally required to obtain a bond equal to the amount of the assets the guardian will be managing. A training course that has been approved by the court must also be taken, unless waived by the court.
A guardian is not just accountable for managing and spending the ward’s assets in a reasonable and responsible manner, if the guardian is also the guardian of the ward’s person, then the guardian is also accountable for the physical well being of the ward. Each year an annual guardianship plan must also be filed with the court. Florida Statute 744.3675 has a very detailed list of what must be included. The residence of the ward must be disclosed, as well as each address the ward resided at during the previous year and how long they resided at each place. A determination of whether their current living situation is in their best interest and a health care plan, just to name a few, must all be included the plan.
If you are considering becoming the guardian of a loved one and are concerned that other family members fear their assets will be misused, their fear will be eased by knowing that all guardians are held accountable for their actions by the Florida court system. Before making the decision to become the guardian of another person, it is very important to fully understand all of the responsibilities that are mandated by the Florida Statutes. For more information about becoming a guardian, contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC today at (904) 685-1200.