Florida Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog
New Florida law better protects the elderly from bad guardians
June 27, 2020
Most court-appointed guardians do their best to compassionately serve their elderly wards. But there’s no doubt about it: There have been bad apples in Florida’s public guardianship system. Over the years the state has introduced several measures aimed at better protecting incapacitated wards from the bad apples.
A shocking case
A particularly egregious case of abuse made headlines recently, as described in a prior post. In that case, Florida court-appointed guardian Rebecca Fierle signed a Do Not Resuscitate Order for her ward, Steven Stryker. She signed it without his consent and over the objections of both his daughter and his doctors. Stryker died in a Tampa hospital on May 13, 2019 when medical staff was prevented from giving him life-saving treatment. Fierle is also under investigation for a variety of financial abuses, including accepting payments from facilities for 682 patients and in some cases, double-billing her wards for the same services. She is currently awaiting trial.
The newest law
Now, largely in response to the Fierle case, Florida has enacted a new law that requires greater oversight of court-appointed guardians. It goes into effect July 1, 2020. Among its key provisions:
- Enhanced reporting requirements for guardians.
- A guardian must secure court approval before signing a Do Not Resuscitate Order for a ward.
- An individual may petition the court to be appointed guardian only if he/she is related to the allegedly incapacitated person.
For a detailed list of the bill’s provisions, click here.
No one wants to end up in a guardianship if incapacity strikes. Fortunately, by creating plans in advance, guardianship can usually be avoided. These plans include a number of guardianship-avoidant steps, including:
- Creating and funding a living trust
- Establishing a Durable Power of Attorney and making sure it contains all the appropriate authorities
- Designating a pre-need guardian, so that if you do need a guardian in the future, you have indicated the individual you would prefer to serve
Please contact The Karp Law Firm attorneys. We can sit down with you and discuss the plans you need to avoid becoming the subject of a guardianship!