Whether an aging parent, a disabled sibling, or another family member with an incapacitating condition, people in Florida and elsewhere may be responsible for the care of loved ones who lack the capacity to care for themselves. In some cases, those in such situations may pursue guardianship to obtain legal authority to make decisions regarding their loved ones’ personal and financial decisions.

According to the Florida Courts, state law allows for voluntary or involuntary guardianships of adults. However, the courts seek to establish the least restrictive form of authority as possible. Therefore, a guardianship may only be granted if the court finds that other options, such as health care proxies or surrogates, durable powers of attorney, trusts or other pre-need directives are not appropriate or unavailable.

People who are mentally competent, but are for some reason unable to manage their own estates, may petition the court for the appointment of a guardian. Should they lack pre-planned directives and end-of-life documents, the court may appoint limited guardians to help people accomplish the tasks necessary for the care of their persons and property that they lack the ability to perform on their own.

In situations when adults are declared incapacitated by the court, a plenary guardian may be appointed. In this role, people are granted the authority and responsibility to handle all their wards’ delegable legal rights and powers. Therefore, for example, they may be charged with making decisions regarding their wards’ health care and where they will live.

According to FindLaw.com, those seeking guardianship for an incapacitated adult must file three petitions with the courts – one to determine incapacity, one for appointment of a guardian and one for appointment as a guardian. The first petition is meant to establish that the person in question requires a guardian and the second asks the court to appoint one. The third is an application requesting that the court name the petitioning family member as guardian.

To serve as a guardian, family members must go through a credit and criminal background checks. They are also required to complete an eight-hour educational course.