Archive for May, 2012
GUARDIAN ADVOCATES – WHO CAN AND SHOULD SERVE
(Guardian Advocacy Series – Part Two)
Guardian advocacy is a special form of guardianship for individuals with developmental disabilities. Like other forms of guardianship, guardian advocacy involves the court appointing one or more individuals to help take care of the person with a developmental disability (the “ward”). These individuals are called guardian advocates.
Florida Statutes specify the types of individuals who may serve as guardian advocates in Florida. Generally, any Florida resident who is mentally competent and 18 years of age or older may be a guardian advocate. Non-residents may also serve as guardian advocates, but they must be:
- - a blood relative of the ward;
- - married to the ward;
- - married to one of the ward’s blood relatives;
- - an adopted child or adoptive parent of the ward; or
- - a blood relative of the ward’s spouse.
Of course, someone who falls into one of the above categories may not be fit to serve as guardian advocate. The law states that a person will be disqualified from acting as a guardian advocate if he or she has been convicted of a felony, is physically or mentally incapable of performing the duties of a guardian advocate, or is unsuitable for any of a number of other reasons.
In most of the guardian advocacies our firm handles, one (or sometimes both) of the natural parents of the ward chooses to serve as guardian advocate. This choice usually makes sense because, in most cases, the parent has been taking care of the ward since birth. Siblings or other relatives can also be great guardian advocates if they are familiar with (or willing to learn about) the ward’s needs and desires. Finally, there are neutral individuals who are available to serve as professional guardian advocates when there is no willing family member.
This blog is the second part of a series on Guardian Advocacy. Additional parts will follow over the next few months. If you have individual questions about guardian advocacy, please feel free to call and make an appointment.
LEAVING ASSETS UNEQUALLY, BUT FAIRLY
Our clients sometimes feel that dividing their assets unequally between their children is the “fair” thing to do. There are many reasons that a parent might want to leave more money to one child than another. One child might have a greater need for financial assistance based on mental or physical disability. Or the parent may have made unequal gifts between his children during his lifetime and want to even things out. Another possibility is that the parent has received significantly more caregiving or other assistance from one child.
Regardless of the underlying facts, we advise clients who choose an unequal distribution to explain this decision to their children. This can be done in your estate planning documents themselves, through lifetime conversations, or via written or recorded messages kept with your estate plan. We believe, and experts agree, that communication is an amazingly powerful tool to avoid family feuds.
We at Cramer Law Center are looking forward to spending time with our families as we head into the Memorial Day weekend. If you will be with your children (or parents) for the holiday, we urge you to consider talking to them about how you (or they) intend to leave assets and why.
For more information, see “Leaving a Fair Will” by Jane Bryant Quinn: http://www.aarp.org/work/retirement-planning/info-05-2012/how-to-leave-a-fair-will.html, or call us to set up a free estate planning consultation.
WHAT IS GUARDIAN ADVOCACY?
(Guardian Advocacy Series – Part One)
Guardian advocacy is a special form of guardianship for individuals with developmental disabilities. Like other forms of guardianship, guardian advocacy involves the court appointing one or more individuals to help take care of the person under guardianship, called the ward.
While they are minors, the parents of developmentally disabled persons are their natural guardians and may make any decisions necessary in caring for them. However, like all children, developmentally disabled individuals become adults in the eyes of the law on their eighteenth birthdays. This means that parents no longer have the legal right to make decisions on such matters as medical treatment, social environment, or even where their child will live. The developmentally disabled person will also automatically have the right to marry, to sign contracts, and to sell or give away his or her property.
Guardian advocacy allows the parents of a developmentally disabled person (or other appropriate individuals) to continue to assist that person in his or her life decisions. A guardian advocate can help his or her ward by choosing where the ward will live, applying for government benefits such as Social Security income, making medical decisions, and managing money and other assets of the ward.
Like other guardians, the guardian advocate is held responsible by the court for his or her care of the ward. However, the process for guardian advocacy is simpler than for other forms of guardianship and is intended to be less restrictive on the ward.
This blog is the first part of a series on Guardian Advocacy. Several additional parts will follow over the next few months. If you have individual questions about guardian advocacy, please feel free to call and make an appointment.