Families that have not done proper Estate Planning often end up in Guardianship Court. Without proper documents, when a loved one is no longer able to care for himself or herself, someone else must use the court system to become his or her legal Guardian in order to make medical and financial decisions for that incapacitated person. The Guardianship process itself is public, time-consuming, and expensive, even if matters are uncontested. However, if the court becomes a stage for a “family feud,” both the emotional and financial costs can skyrocket.
Typically, there are at least two attorneys involved in the Guardianship proceeding. The person petitioning to become the guardian is required to have an attorney. Additionally, the person who is alleged to be incapacitated (the “ward”) is appointed an attorney by the court, to protect his or her interests. If several family members vie to become the guardian (such as siblings fighting over a parent), the number of attorneys involved and resulting expense is multiplied. Such family in-fighting also takes an emotional toll on the participants.
The upshot of many guardianship family feuds is that the Judge will decide not to appoint any family member as guardian, but instead will appoint a neutral, “Professional Guardian.” The costs of providing that neutral perspective will be $85 – $100 per hour (in the Jacksonville, FL area), for each hour of the Professional Guardian’s services. Of course, the Professional Guardian also will need to hire her own attorney, to be paid for out of the guardianship estate. Unfortunately, we have seen horrible results from family feuds. No one wins when families quarrel in open court.
Don’t let this to happen to your family!