Guardianship is a legal arrangement under which a person (the guardian) has the
legal right and duty to care for another (the ward) and his or her property. A
guardian of the person makes decisions and takes action regarding the personal
care of the ward. A guardian of the property manages the property and assets of
the ward. A guardian must be represented by an attorney.
A guardianship is established when a person’s is unable to legally act on
his/her own behalf. This may be due to minority, (he or she is not of
age), or due to mental and/or physical incapacity. A competent adult may
also petition the court to appoint a voluntary guardian for himself or
guardianship must be established for the property of a minor child when an
amount over $50,000 is to be paid to the minor. The court may also appoint a
guardian before approving a settlement for a claim over $15,000. This may occur
through an inheritance or through a settlement of a legal action. Guardianship
of the person of a minor child may need to be established if both natural
parents are deceased, incapacitated or unavailable.
guardianship for an alleged incapacitated person is initiated by filing a
“Petition to Determine Capacity” and a “Petition to Appoint Guardian” with the
Clerk’s Probate department. The proposed guardian must be represented by an
alleged incapacitated person (“the person”) and next of kin will be served with
a notice and a copy of the court order appointing an examining committee and
setting a hearing. An attorney will be appointed to represent the person at the hearing. Each member of the
examining committee submits his or her report to the court after examining the
person. At the hearing, the court will make a determination regarding the
capacity of the -person, and if necessary, appoint a guardian.
person may voluntarily petition the court for appointment of a guardian for his
or her property when, though mentally competent, he or she is incapable of the
care, custody, and management of his estate by reason of age or physical
infirmity. A certificate of a licensed physician is required, stating that he or
she has examined the person and that the person is competent to understand the
nature of the guardianship and his delegation of authority.
Who can be a guardian?
person 18 years of age or older who has an interest in the protection of the
personal or property rights of the ward -may qualify to serve as a court
appointed guardian. A completed Application for Appointment of Guardian form
must be submitted by the proposed guardian at the time a guardianship case is
opened. The Court will review the application to ensure the guardian will best
serve the needs of the ward.
What are the
responsibilities of a guardian?
A guardian is appointed by the court to act in the best interest of the ward. The guardian may exercise only those rights that have been removed from the ward and delegated to the guardian.
guardian of the property manages the property of the ward. A newly appointed
guardian is required to file an Initial Inventory of the ward’s assets within
60 days of his appointment. Subsequently, an annual accounting of the assets
will be required.
guardian of the person is required to file an Initial Plan for the care of the
ward within 60 days of his appointment. Subsequently, an annual plan is
required to provide information to the court about the health and physical well
being of the ward.
How do I become a
most important step is to first contact an attorney that handles guardianship
cases. The Clerk cannot give legal advice or advise you.
resources for guardians are available below:
Office of Public &
Florida's 10th Judicial Circuit
Polk Elder Care
guardian subject to a background check prior to appointment?
professional and non-professional guardians must be fingerprinted for a
background check before being appointed as a guardian.
- The Polk
County Sheriff’s Office obtains fingerprints by appointment only. Please
call to make an appointment using the form listed below.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office will submit electronic fingerprint records to the
Florida Department of Law Enforcement to obtain a criminal record check.
guardian is responsible for payment of all fees.
results will be returned to the Clerk’s Office where the information is held in
a secure area and not subject to public record disclosure.
guardian should allow 2 weeks after fingerprinting for the results to be filed.
more information, including fees to be paid, download this form.
are the filing and audit fees associated with Guardianship Cases?
Filing and audit fees can be found in the Probate section of
the Clerk’s fee schedule: Clerk's fee schedule
Audit fees are set by Florida Statute and
based on the value of the ward’s assets.
How Do I Report Suspected
Fraud, Waste or Abuse in Guardianships?
The law assigns the responsibility for
auditing the guardianship reports to the Clerk of the Circuit Court. The Court
then reviews the Clerk’s audit report.
you suspect fraud, waste or abuse of elderly, minor children and incapacitated
individuals in a guardianship, please call our fraud hotline at (863) 534-7689.
You can report incidents such as:
money or property
loans, funds transfers, or changes in bank accounts or lines of credit
purchase or sale of real estate or personal property
removal of a ward from their home
of the ward from friends and family
call the department of Inspector General during business hours to speak to a
can also report fraud here: Report guardianship fraud