The Problems That May Arise When Transitioning A Guardianship
An incapacitated adult (i.e., a ward) may require someone to serve as their legal guardian. Since a guardianship may last for the duration of the ward’s life, it is important for a current or potential guardian to consider provisions for transitioning to a successor guardian if and when it becomes necessary. It is important for all interested parties to work together in the ward’s best interests, otherwise litigation may ensue to resolve the matter.
Initially Uncontested Transition Leads to Fight Between Parents
A recent decision from the Florida Third District Court of Appeal, In re: Guardianship of Ash, provides a cautionary example. The ward in this case is a man in his 50s who is permanently physically and mentally disabled due to a prior act of medical malpractice. The ward’s parents, who are long divorced, initially agreed that the father should serve as guardian. A Florida court established the appropriate guardianship with the father as guardian but with the mother exercising “equal decision-making rights.”
The ward lived with a professional caregiver in a home adjacent to the father’s house for many years. But in 2019, the father informed the mother that he wished for her to takeover as guardian. The mother according filed a petition with the court to be named as successor guardian.
Although it was the father’s idea for the mother to take over, he nonetheless filed an objection to the mother’s petition. He said that he was concerned that the mother had not completed certain “necessary steps for a seamless transition” of guardianship responsibilities. The mother countered that the father had yet to provide certain information about the guardianship estate to facilitate such a transition.
There was also a disagreement over the mother’s plan to continue living separately from the ward. The father said he always assumed the ward would live with the mother. The mother said that was never her intent and the father knew that from the outset. The judge ultimately upheld the father’s objection, noting that the mother’s decision to pursue guardianship in the first place “was solely her decision and at her risk.”
The Third District Court of Appeal, however, did not see it that way. It concluded that the husband had taken contradictory positions during the litigation–first supporting the mother as guardian provided she completed certain transition steps–then later claiming he never would have supported a guardianship with the mother and ward living separately. In fact, the father was aware of the mother’s plans regarding the living situation all along. More to the point, the mother relied on the husband’s promises in pursuing her petition–she did not simply act on her own initiative. The Third District also noted that the probate court never bothered to consider the “best interest” of the ward, which is the legal standard governing any guardianship proceeding.
Speak with a Florida Guardianship Litigation Lawyer Today
Guardianship cases are often emotionally fraught for the parties involved. That is why if you are involved in such a dispute it is important to work with an experienced Pompano Beach guardianship litigation attorney. Contact the offices of Mark R. Manceri, P.A., today to schedule a consultation with a member of our staff.