Monday, January 19, 2015




Published: Sunday, January 18, 2015 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 17, 2015 at 11:00 p.m.
This spring, Florida lawmakers will have a chance to stem abuses in the state's little-understood adult guardianship system by taking up measures that would make it harder for guardians and attorneys to disregard the best interests of the wards they're supposed to protect.



Bills aim to ensure guardians and lawyers act in 
wards' best interests
Critics say the process of stripping away an elder's rights and taking over that person's assets happens too quickly in Florida, without enough notice to family, friends or even the prospective ward.
In December, the Herald-Tribune published a series of stories -- "The Kindness of Strangers: Inside Elder Guardianship in Florida" -- offering case studies of people who believe they were denied due process in court and afterward.
The series highlighted the potential for conflicts of interest among judges, attorneys, guardians, health care providers and other business people who work closely together within the system. Because wards' cases are confidential, there is often little opportunity for oversight.
With more Americans living into their 80s, cases of age-related dementia are increasingly becoming matters for litigation. In most states, anyone can apply to the court to determine that an elder lacks the capacity to make decisions, and place that individual under guardianship.
Florida law has a checklist of 14 rights that an elder may surrender as a result of the guardianship process -- including the rights to marry, vote, manage finances, determine where to live and accept medical care.
This year, two legislators who pressed for reform in 2014 are back with new bills they believe have stronger chances of success, as the excesses possible within Florida's guardianship system become more widely known.
This story appeared in print on page A1

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