Over the past several years, Florida guardianship has been in the news, with multiple stories revealing fraud and abuse by professional guardians who take advantage of elderly wards. Accusations aimed at guardians include overcharging, moving wards out of their homes to sell their property and even filing a do-not-resuscitate order without the individual’s knowledge, which later resulted in that person’s death.
What is particularly galling about many of these stories is that complete strangers have successfully been appointed guardians over vulnerable seniors without their family’s knowledge. Those without family members make an even easier target for unscrupulous guardians.
A thorough estate plan helps avoid unnecessary guardianship and lets you control who will manage your finances and make medical decisions on your behalf. Consult an experienced estate planning attorney about setting up a living trust. Under such a trust, you maintain ownership of the assets named in the trust but name a trustee to manage those assets. Your attorney can craft an agreement that allows you to withdraw funds under certain conditions. If you are incapacitated, your trustee can manage those funds and pay bills. A living trust helps avoid the need for a court-appointed guardian because you have already appointed someone to manage whatever assets are in the trust.
Other key components to any estate plan should include a power of attorney and advance medical directive. Your financial power of attorney gives whoever you name in the document the power to make financial decisions for you in case of your incapacitation. An advance medical directive or healthcare power of attorney gives a named agent authority to make medical decisions on your behalf. In the event your agent (a child, spouse, friend or whoever you name) deemed you unable to continue living on your own, they would be able to find a better living arrangement without involving a professional guardian. This avoids situations in which a would-be guardian sells property or makes other financial decisions that may not be in your best interest.
Bankier, Arlen & Snelling Law Group, PLLC offers Palm Beach County clients complete estate planning services, including those that protect vulnerable seniors from unscrupulous guardians. To learn how we can help protect your legacy and preserve your wealth, call us at 561-278-3110 or contact us online.