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 counsel 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.

Protecting Your Family is Just a Phone Call Away.

Don’t leave planning for your future and that of your loved ones to chance. All it takes is one phone call to SJF Law Group to ensure that your wishes will be followed, and your loved ones taken care of when you are gone. We expertly guide individuals through the complex probate process, and capably handle all aspects of the creation, administration, and settlement of trusts as well.  When you work with the estate planning attorneys at SJF Law Group, you get more than just an estate plan: you get peace of mind. Call us at 954-580-3690 or email us at: [email protected] today.

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