About Guardianship


What is guardianship?

A guardianship is the appointment of an individual by the court to exercise all or some control over another individual’s person and/or property. The appointment is usually made when an individual is incapable of exercising control for themselves. The person who is appointed by the court is referred to as the guardian, and the person who is subject; to the proceeding is referred to as the ward.

Who can become a guardian?

See Who may be appointed guardian of a resident ward. (state law)

What if there is no family member available to be the guardian?

If a guardian is needed and no family member is available or willing, a Public Guardian or a Registered Professional Guardian may be appointed.

Are guardianships established for the elderly only?

No. Guardianships are also established for minors in several situations. For example, if a minor has received a settlement greater than $15,000.00, a guardian of his or her property must be appointed [FL statute §744.387(2)]. There are also instances where family members, such as grandparents, are appointed as guardians when the parents of the minor are unwilling or unable to care for the minor child.

I know someone who is in danger (exploited, neglected, etc.)  What can I do?

You can call the Abuse Hotline (1 800 96-ABUSE) to file a confidential report.

What steps can I take if I know an individual that is incapable of caring for himself or herself?

If you are able and qualified to serve as guardian, you may petition to be appointed guardian through an attorney. The clerk’s office may not give legal advice or guidance in completing the various guardianship forms and reports that are required by Florida statute. If you do not wish to be appointed guardian, it is possible that a professional or public guardian may be appointed.

Who appoints the guardian?

Guardianship matters are handled by the Circuit Court, Probate Section. The judge serving there will appoint a guardian.

What are the guardians responsibilities?

This depends upon the type of guardianship that has been established and the nature of the ward’s incapacity or needs. Each guardianship is customized by the court to properly address the needs of the individual ward. A guardian can be appointed to represent the person or the ward’s property, or both.

How would I begin a guardianship proceeding?

You may petition the Court through an attorney.

How would I find an attorney who handles guardianship?

The Executive Office of the FSGA will be glad to refer you to an attorney in your area. Call 800-718-0207.

What is a guardian advocate?

A Guardian Advocate may be appointed as a less intrusive and costly alternative to full guardianship. This may be appropriate in cases of developmental disability or mental illness.

Who monitors the guardianship to insure that the ward’s interests and assets are protected?

A guardian is required to submit periodic reports regarding the condition of the ward and/or the ward’s assets. The clerk’s office is responsible for the initial and annual reviews of these reports. After the reports are audited by the clerk, they are taken to the presiding guardianship judge for review and approval. If it appears that the guardian is not properly performing his or her duties, the court will take the necessary steps to protect the ward and/or their assets.

I have a complaint about a guardian. What can I do about him/her? Who do I call?

Guardians are responsible to the Court that appointed him or her. They must comply with the direction of the court and provide periodic reports. If you believe the guardian is not following the Court’s direction, you can make that known to the Court. You may have to have the assistance of an attorney to do that. If you believe the Ward is neglected or abused, you can make a confidential report to the Abuse Hotline (1 800 96-ABUSE). If the guardian is a professional guardian certified by the national Center for Guardianship Certification, you may make a complaint to them.

I need a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to help with my child’s custody/visitation dispute.

Members of the Florida State Guardianship Association generally do not practice in this area and we are unable to make any referrals.

Is there a public guardian in my area?

The Statewide Public Guardianship Office maintains the list of Public Guardians. You can see the list at their website.

What is the FSGA?

FSGA is a nonprofit corporation founded in 1983 for the improvement of guardianship services. Governed by a Board of Directors representing five geographical areas of the State, FSGA is dedicated to promoting the protection, dignity, and value of incapacitated persons through ethics, advocacy, and the dissemination of information. FSGA’s mission also includes a focus on furthering the professionalization of guardians as accountable court representatives through education, networking, and legislative action.