If You “Care a Lot” About Your Future, Do This to Avoid Becoming a Ward of the State.

Netflix’s movie, I Care A Lot, is causing quite a stir. The movie centers around an entrepreneur, Marla Greyson (Rosamond Pike) who runs a business as a court-appointed guardian handling the financial and personal decision-making for elderly people who can no longer manage their own affairs.

Sound good?

Well, it’s not.

When a guardian is appointed for you, you are literally stripped of your ability to make decisions for yourself, and that power is given to someone else.

To whom?

Well, to whomever the court appoints as your guardian.

Once that happens, you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself and you are no longer free to use your assets anymore. They are all under the control of the guardian.

And, as I Care A Lot points out, not all court-appointed guardians are trustworthy. Guardianship fraud is a real, and a very serious problem.

Guardians and Guardianship Fraud.

A court-appointed guardian is in essence, a surrogate decision-maker for a person who is considered a “ward” of the state. The court-appointed guardian makes all the financial and/or personal (or both) decisions for the ward, who is usually a minor or an adult with mental or physical disabilities.

But an elderly person can also become a ward of the state. If the court rules that an individual is unable to make decisions for himself or herself anymore, the court can make that person a ward of the state and appoint a guardian for him/her.

A guardianship can be voluntary or involuntary.

Any adult may petition the court and “allege” that another individual is incapacitated and unable to manage his or her own affairs.

In the movie mentioned above, the guardian character falsified medical records to have her victims—who were not mentally incapacitated—seized against their wills. Once appointed as their guardian, she went on to rob them of their assets.

While perhaps “just a movie,” there is some factual basis for the events portrayed in the movie and fraud in guardianship is a real danger.

In Florida, almost anyone can be appointed as a guardian and qualifying as a guardian is not difficult. Many states do not even require that a potential guardian submit to a background check.

Keep in mind a guardianship does not have an “end date.” Once appointed by the court, the only way to end the guardianship is to petition the court and prove that the ward is no longer incapacitated. And if the court-appointed guardian does not want to leave his or her appointment, trying to end the guardianship is very difficult indeed.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

The best way to protect yourself from becoming a victim of guardianship fraud is to be proactive.

Consult with an experienced estate and probate attorney and get a health care surrogate designation and durable power of attorney put in place for you.

These two documents are central to any estate plan.

And for good reason.

They help you to prepare for the possibility of becoming incapacitated. We never plan on being incapacitated, but it happens all the time.

With these documents in place, you choose who will make decisions for you if you become incapacitated. That way, if you become incapacitated, someone who really does “care a lot” about you will step in and take care of you.

Grab Our Free Estate Planning Checklist Now

Navigating estate planning can be overwhelming, but we’ve got you covered. Explore our comprehensive checklist designed to streamline the transition of your hard-earned assets, ensuring a secure future for your family.

Protecting Your Family is Just a Phone Call Away.

Our team here at SJF Law Group works hard to ensure that your wishes will be followed, and your loved ones taken care of when you are gone. Our estate planning lawyers expertly guide individuals and families through the complex probate process and capably handle all aspects of the creation, administration, and settlement of estates and trusts. When you work with our Florida estate planning attorneys at SJF Law Group, you get more than just an estate plan: you get peace of mind. 

As trusted estate planning lawyers, we serve clients in the vibrant communities of Plantation, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and Miami, FL. We are also pleased to offer the options of both in-person and virtual appointments throughout Florida to make our services accessible no matter where you are located. 

If you want to discuss your specific situations with one of our estate planning lawyers, do not hesitate to reach out to our law firm at 954-231-3430. You can also fill out our contact form. 

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