How Do You End A Florida Guardianship?
When an adult is unable to make personal or financial decisions due to a mental or physical disability, a Florida court can appoint a surrogate decision-maker known as a guardian. A guardianship is only necessary when there is no readily available alternative, i.e., the disabled adult did not have a power of attorney or trust. Once appointed, the guardian takes control over the property and/or person of the ward (the legal term for a disabled adult).
So how does a guardianship end once it is created? Can the guardian simply walk away? And what happens if the ward is no longer mentally or physically disabled? Below is a brief explanation of Florida law on this subject.
Conditions for Terminating a Guardianship
Section 744.521 of the Florida Statutes spells out a number of conditions that may trigger the end or “termination” of a guardianship:
- The ward is no longer disabled, i.e., they have become “sui juris” or “restored to capacity.”
- The guardian is unable to locate the ward after conducting a “diligent search.”
- If the guardian has control of the ward’s property, that property has been “exhausted.”
- The ward has moved out of state and is no longer subject to Florida jurisdiction.
- The ward has died.
With respect to the first scenario, the process begins by filing a “suggestion of capacity” with the court overseeing the guardianship. The judge will then appoint a physician to examine the ward and report back. After considering this report and any other evidence, the court may decide to fully or partially restore the ward’s legal rights. In the event of a full restoration, the court will then direct the termination of the guardianship.
What If the Guardian Quits?
A guardian may resign by filing an appropriate notice with the court. A resignation does not, however, mean the end of the guardianship. The judge will appoint a successor guardian. The outgoing guardian must then file a final report and transfer any property and records related to the guardianship to that successor. In some cases, the court may also order the forcible removal of the guardian for breach of fiduciary duty or other misconduct.
Winding Up the Guardianship
A guardianship is not officially over until the court issues a final order discharging the guardian. The discharge process is essentially the same regardless of the reason for ending the guardianship. The guardian will need to file a final account of all financial activities related to the guardianship. If the guardian or their attorney is seeking any fees, they must file a petition to that effect. Finally, any remaining guardianship property must be distributed either to the ward, or if the ward has died to their probate estate.
Speak with a Florida Guardianship Attorney Today
A guardianship imposes significant restrictions on an adult’s legal rights. This is why it is crucial to ensure that any guardianship follows the strict requirements of Florida law, both in their creation and their termination. If you are involved in a legal dispute related to a current or potential guardianship and need legal advice from an experienced Pompano Beach guardianship litigation lawyer, contact the offices of Mark R. Manceri, P.A., today to schedule a consultation.