Guardianship is a legal proceeding where a person, or guardian is appointed to assist another individual. The lengthy process is held in circuit court and must follow Florida Statutes, Chapter 744. Sometimes cases involve children. For example, if a child’s parent or caregiver passes away, the court must appoint a guardian to care for the vulnerable youngster.

Other situations may involve disabled, elderly, mentally incompetent, or other incapacitated adults. In other words, every guardianship case is unique and requires the assistance of an experienced attorney.

Types of Guardianship

Florida Law permits two general types of guardianship: plenary and limited. Plenary guardianships are appointed when a person is unable to care for themselves. In this case, the guardian would have control over financial and personal decisions. Limited guardianships permit the guardian to make specific decisions. Often the court will decide to separate the decision making into two categories: person and property.

The appointed guardian may be in charge of one and not the other. Both types involve huge responsibilities and reports must be filed with the court on a regular basis to ensure the “ward” receives proper care.

Guardianship Process

Blank PDF example of a Florida Petition to Determine Incapacity for guardianship

Probate court proceedings require appropriate paperwork filed on time. Your attorney will guide you through this process. Guardianship proceedings must follow specific steps.

  1. Petition to Determine Capacity/Petition to Appoint Guardian: Your attorney advises you on how to write and file these petitions. They must be filed at the same time. Each is vital. One triggers an evaluation of the incapacitated person. The other allows the court to appoint an attorney for the alleged incapacitated person unless they already have an attorney. In emergency situations, the court may appoint a temporary guardian.
  2. Medical Evaluation: Within five days a three person examining committee will be appointed. At least one doctor or psychiatrist will assess the mental and physical health of the alleged incapacitated person. The medical professionals submit their reports to the court within 15 days.
  3. Capacity Hearing/Guardianship Appointment: The judge studies the reports and determines whether to appoint a guardian.


Courts try to make the best decision when placing vulnerable people under a guardian’s care. Sadly, some people take advantage of fragile folks. When this happens, an experienced attorney’s help becomes crucial. Perhaps, the most famous guardianship case involves Brittany Spears.  Initially, a judge determined Brittany required supervision. Now, after 13 years, the famous singer has regained control over her personal and financial affairs. Like Brittany, anyone wanting to dissolve their guardianship situation must seek legal advice.

A Florida Guardianship Litigation Attorney becomes necessary when a vulnerable person is a victim of financial exploitation. Families often sense a loved one is being taken advantage of when property disappears. This is a giant red flag. Contact an attorney immediately. Sadly, some guardians are not honest. This must be investigated to keep your loved one safe. Financial exploitation may include:

  • Stealing jewelry or money
  • Signing over titles on cars
  • Selling property
  • Changing wills or trust documents
  • Changing beneficiaries at financial institutions
  • Changing beneficiaries on anything

An experienced Guardianship Attorney with Litigation experience will assist you in straightening out the situation.

Involuntary commitment is another time you may need an attorney’s assistance. Generally, this involves repeat drug and alcohol abusers, or people who present a danger to themselves or others. An attorney may help with the commitment, or, an attorney may help fight the proceedings. Guardianship may or may not be the best way to go. Some people have estate documents set up that express their wishes if they become incapacitated. Once again, talk to an experienced attorney to protect yourself and your family regarding guardianship issues.