In Florida, any adult resident of this state may serve as guardian. A non-resident may also serve as a guardian if they are a close relative of the ward: e.g., related by lineal consanguinity; a legally adopted child or adoptive parent of the ward; a spouse, sibling, aunt/uncle, niece/nephew, or someone related by lineal consanguinity to any such person; or the spouse of anyone listed above.
A bank, trust company, nonprofit religious or charitable corporation may also serve as a guardian. A bank trust department, however, may only serve as guardian of the ward’s property, not as guardian of the ward’s person.
A health care provider of services to the ward may be appointed as guardian of the ward. However, before doing so, the Court must make a finding that there is no conflict of interest with the ward’s best interest.
Who is disqualified from being appointed guardian?
Any person who has been convicted of a felony or who is incapable of fulfilling the duties of a guardian cannot serve as a guardian under Florida law. See, Fla. Stat. § 744.309(3). Please note that Section 744.309(3), Florida Statutes, was recently amended to include additional grounds for disqualification to serve as guardian for any person who has been judicially determined to have committed abuse, abandonment, or neglect against a child or who has been found guilty of, regardless of adjudication, or entered a plea of nolo contendere or guilty to, any offense prohibited under Section 435.04, Florida Statutes, or a similar statute in another jurisdiction.
Additional considerations in appointment of guardian
In appointing a guardian for a Florida ward, the Court also considers:
- The wishes expressed by the alleged incapacitated person.
- These wishes are usually expressed by the alleged incapacity person in a written declaration of preneed guardian or through testimony at a hearing.
- The wishes expressed by the next of kin;
- The prospective guardian’s capacity to managed the financial resources involved; and,
- The prospective guardian’s ability to meet the requirements of the law and the unique needs of the individual case.
See, Fla. Stat. § 744.312.
Importantly, an “emergency temporary guardian who is a professional guardian may not be appointed as the permanent guardian of a ward unless one of the next of kin of the alleged incapacitated person or the ward requests that the profession guardian be appointed as permanent guardian.” Fla. Stat. § 744.312(4)(b).