Guardianship Fraud in Florida

According to recent censuses and polls, experts project Americans that are 65-and-older will double over the next three decades due to a large number of baby boomers.  This means the current population of 65 and older persons should explode from the current rate of 48 million to almost 90 million by 2050.  This is an impressive statistic, but also a worrying statistic because as the population of elders increases, so does the potential for elder abuse.

Florida has one of the highest percentages of elderly residents in the United States, which also means there are more older people that can be abused.

So how does fraud against the elderly occur in Florida?

One way that fraud occurs against the elderly in Florida is through a law that allows a person to become an emergency temporary guardian.  Before we explain how the law can be abused, it is important to note this law has a great purpose.  The ability to appoint an emergency temporary guardian in Florida was designed to let a person become a guardian in an emergency situation because the normal guardianship process is a longer process.

Let us look at the Florida emergency guardianship statute.   According to Florida Statutes 744.3031, prior to the appointment of a guardian, the court must find there appears to be an “imminent danger” that the physical or mental health or safety of the person will be seriously impaired or that the person’s property is in danger of being wasted, misappropriated or lost unless immediate action is taken.

The “imminent danger” portion of the statute is often what allows guardianship fraud to occur.  A common fraud scenario is when the abuser, such as a family caregiver, fabricates a belief that there is a relative, a neighbor or even a stranger who is trying to take advantage of the victim.  Another sign of fraud is when a person tries to convince the victim to execute a durable power of attorney prepared by a lawyer so the caregiver can help the victim protect and manage his or her assets.

Theoretically, the caregiver could begin to deplete the victim’s assets and give the ward too much medicine to make this person exhibit a lack of clarity to appear mentally incapacitated.   In this scenario, a caregiver can request an emergency temporary guardianship to give the caregiver complete temporary control over the victim.  An emergency temporary guardianship expires 90 days after the date of appointment and can even be extended an additional 90 days if the emergency conditions exist.

In the initial stages of guardianship, an attorney must represent an alleged incapacitated person.  For more information on how to avoid elder abuse through guardianships contact the Jacksonville Guardianship attorneys at The Law Office of David M. Goldman PLLC today.

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