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Establishing a Florida guardianship for your adult child

Sometimes things happen that are completely out of our control. Imagine you have an adult child in his late twenties, unmarried, with a good job. His life was heading in the right direction until he went out for a weekend fishing trip with the guys. A horrific boating accident left him with a severe traumatic brain injury and now it is up to you to ensure that he leads the best life possible.

Since your son can no longer care for himself, he needs a guardian to make decisions on his behalf. As his mother, you feel the need to take on that role. However, you must first understand the process the court uses to determine guardianship. Since the process can be very complicated in Florida, it is important that you consult with legal counsel. A local Fort Meyers estate planning attorney can help you through the guardianship process so that your son gets the care he needs.

Read further for an overview of a Florida guardianship.

What is a guardianship?

In Florida, a legal guardian for an adult is required to manage the affairs of the person that is unable to take care of him- or herself. Usually, the court will order a guardianship for someone that is as named a "ward" of the court. If you are awarded guardianship of your son, you will be legally responsible for making decisions about his day-to-day life. You will be obligated by ethical and statutory rules to make decisions for him that are in his best interests.

What are the qualifications to be a guardian?

In order to be a guardian in Florida, there are certain qualifications that you must meet. For example, you have to be at least 18 years old and a Florida resident. If you are not a resident of the state, you are still eligible to be a guardian if you meet additional qualifications. In general, you have to be a close relative. As his mother, you satisfy this qualification. In addition, you must not have any prior felony convictions for the court to consider you a suitable guardian.

What is the filing process?

You have to file three documents to apply for guardianship. The Petition to Determine Capacity is the document that establishes if your son needs a guardian. The Petition for Appointment of Guardian is a formal request asking the court to appoint a guardian. The Application for Appointment as Guardian is the final document you will file that asks the court to appoint you as your son's guardian.

How does the court decide?

The court uses the opinion of a three-person committee to determine guardianship. The committee will consist of a psychiatrist or physician and two other medical professionals that can provide expert opinions. At least one of the three should be an expert in the type of injury your son has suffered. Each member will evaluate him and then submit a written report to the court. In addition, the court will appoint an attorney to represent your son while the proceeding takes place.

Applying for guardianship can be a very complicated process. If you are considering applying for guardianship of an adult child, it is important to understand the procedures.

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