Singer Britney Spears has been in the news quite a bit this year, and not because she released a new album or went on a world tour. Instead, fans in Gainesville and across the country followed the saga of Spears’ guardianship battle against her father, which the court terminated in November after nearly 14 years.
If you paid attention to the story, you might have a distorted idea of how guardianships are supposed to work in Florida. They are not meant to be a tool for exploiting or controlling people. In the field of elder law, a guardianship’s purpose is to allow a family member or friend to step in when an adult has become too mentally incapacitated to care for themselves or handle their financial affairs.
When is a guardianship necessary?
The need for a guardian most often arises when a person’s Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia has reached an advanced stage, and the person has not planned for this possibility in their estate plan. They may forget to pay their bills and become vulnerable to scams and unwise investment offers. Instead of allowing an incapacitated senior to become destitute, Florida courts allow someone to request guardianship status over the person.
If the idea of having a guardian handling your finances someday makes you uncomfortable, careful estate planning is the best way to avoid it. You can designate someone to serve as your durable power of attorney in case you become incapacitated. That way, you get to decide who would take care of your finances if you ever lose your ability to do so. This is an example of how estate planning gives you control no matter what happens in the future.