Revocable Living Trusts are planned with the intention of keeping the family out of court. If this intent fails, courts have alarming powers to interfere with your plan. The recent case of Rene v. Sykes-Kennedy illustrates this point.
Recently, there has been a lot of buzz around the need to fix the rules governing “professional guardians” (i.e., persons who have been appointed guardian over three or more legally incapacitated individuals) in order to protect Florida’s elderly from predatory practices. (See here, here, here, and here.) While the Florida legislature is taking steps to address the issue, you can mitigate your risk of becoming a victim by implementing anticipatory provisions in your estate planning documents.
While even the simplest guardianship is an expensive, lengthy, and public undertaking, a contested guardianship can be much worse. A contested guardianship is a case in which there are multiple interested persons (usually family members) with different ideas of what is best for the incapacitated person (the “ward”). As you might imagine, contests like this can drive up the financial and emotional cost of the proceeding, delay results, and air a family’s “dirty laundry” in open court.