When adults become unable to make decisions for themselves because of physical or mental health issues, families often appoint a guardian to make those decisions for them. Because of the serious nature of the decisions guardians make, guardians must be trustworthy.
Unfortunately, a recent investigation found that some guardians within Florida’s professional guardianship system may be taking advantage of the seniors they are meant to protect.
What is a professional guardian?
Some seniors do not have friends or family members who are willing or able to serve as legal guardians. Seniors who have the financial means may hire a professional guardian to manage their finances and make healthcare and other decisions on their behalf. However, some seniors can not afford to hire a private guardian. In these cases, the court appoints professional guardians.
What the investigation found
The investigation alleged that at least one court-appointed guardian had altered documents to steal the property of wards. It also claimed the guardian billed wards for more hours than the guardian worked and committed various other fraudulent acts that transferred wealth from wards to the guardian.
Concerns with the system
Investigators expressed concerns that internal controls in the court-appointed guardianship program either do not exist or are not working. They also noted that court-appointed guardians only need to pass a background check and take a 40-hour course.
The allegations in this report demonstrate the importance of ensuring that any person, whether that person is a professional guardian or a friend or family member, is carefully vetted to confirm that they are trustworthy enough to be given control of a vulnerable person’s assets and healthcare decisions.