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Florida Guardian Watchdog Under Fire

A Florida government agency meant to oversee various guardian programs hasn’t proved to have much teeth in first three years on the job, according to a recent report.

The Florida legislature created the Office of Public and Professional Guardians in 2016 to police guardianship programs. The office has opened 132 investigations sent out 19 warning letters to program operators since that time, according to an ABC Action News investigation. But it hasn’t moved to ban or suspend any guardians, despite some troubling findings.

A guardian is a person appointed to serve as representative of another person (often called a “ward”) who lacks the capacity to act on his or her own behalf. That incapacity may be due to conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia. In many cases guardians are also appointed minor children, considered to lack certain legal capacity under the law. The guardian is supposed to act in the ward’s best interests.

OPPG investigators found that some guardians have failed to disclose criminal histories, stolen property and deposited checks into personal accounts, according to the report. Guardians cited for that kind of wrongdoing so far have received little more than the warning letters, even though the OPPG has the power to revoke their registrations.

The analysis of OPPG activity comes amid growing concerns about guardianship abuse in the Sunshine State. For example, ABC Action News recently reported on a court-appointed guardian who moved an 85-year-old woman to assisted living facility against her wishes and a local relator who successfully petitioned to have a St. Pete Beach hotel owner placed in guardianship after the owner sold the property to a family member.

An OPPG spokesperson told ABC Action News that the office doesn’t have the funding to hire its own investigators. Instead, it relies on local court clerks to handle the probes.

Selecting a Guardian

As the ABC investigation shows, selecting a guardian is an important decision. The guardian is supposed to act as an agent for an incapacitated person, working on his or her behalf.

The good news is that there are a number of legal tools that a person can use to identify who they want to serve as guardian in the event the person becomes incapacitated. State law requires a curt considering a petition for guardianship to take into account an incapacitated person’s wishes.

Speak With a Miami Guardianship Lawyer Today

If you are considering seeking a guardian or filing an incapacity petition in South Florida, it’s important to consult an experienced Miami guardianship lawyer. An attorney can guide you through the legal process step by step, ensuring that you understand your rights and options along the way.

Hoffman & Hoffman is a South Florida estate planning law firm whose attorneys help people manage their assets during their lives and decide how property will be distributed in the event of their death. We are pleased to represent clients throughout South Florida, including in Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Coconut Grove. Contact us to speak with an attorney today.