(Guardian Advocacy Series – Part Five)
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 (“guardian advocates”) to help take care of the person with a developmental disability (the “ward”).
A person seeking to be appointed as the guardian advocate of someone with a developmental disability must open a case by filing appropriate documents, including a Petition for Appointment of Guardian Advocate, with the court. The Petition should assert that the proposed ward needs a guardian advocate and explain the ward’s abilities and the nature of his disability.
After the proposed guardian advocate opens the case, an attorney will be appointed to represent the person with a developmental disability in the proceedings. This attorney will meet with the proposed ward and evaluate the ward’s wishes and need for a guardian advocate.
Next, the case will go before the appropriate judge who will decide whether or not the proposed guardian advocate should be appointed and which rights should be taken from the ward and assigned to the guardian advocate. Unline traditional guardianships, this does not require the court to first declare the ward incapacitated, which involves a more expensive and invasive examination of the ward’s mental status and abilities.
A newly appointed guardian advocate will need to file initial reports to the court about the status of the ward’s person and property. She will generally have a duty to update the court every year about the ward’s physical and financial situation.
Although Florida law does not require guardian advocates to be represented by an attorney, we recommend that anyone trying to become a guardian advocate seek legal assistance at least in preparing the initial paperwork. At Cramer Law Center, we help guardian advocates from the very beginning until the initial reports are approved for a flat fee. We also assist guardian advocates with their ongoing reporting duties for a flat annual fee.
This blog is the fifth and final part of a series on Guardian Advocacy. If you have individual questions about guardian advocacy, please feel free to call and make an appointment.