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Differences Between Conservatorships and Guardianships in Florida

In the media, there has been a lot of talk about conservatorship. But what exactly is a conservatorship and how is it different from a guardianship? Well, the answer depends on what state you are in! In Florida, the answer is a bit different than other states. 

What is a guardianship?

In the State of Florida, a guardianship is when a person, or a guardian, is put in place to assume responsibility for an incapacitated individual or a minor’s personal and financial care. This happens when the court deems a person incapacitated due to bodily injury or illness, including but not limited to, developmental disability, or can also be put in place when a minor is left without parents or relatives to care for them. The guardian is responsible for a variety of needs the person may need such as housing, medical care, and managing assets. In the case that the guardianship is for a minor, the guardian is also responsible for the minor’s education.

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What is a conservatorship?

Conservatorships in Florida are very different from conservatorships in other states. In other states conservatorships are similar to guardianships and apply to incapacitated individuals. In Florida, a conservatorship is when a person, or a conservator, is put in place to manage an “absentee’s” financial matters. An absentee is a person who has been reported missing, presumed dead, or went missing due to mental illness. A conservator is appointed to manage any pending financial matters that the absentee may have until they are located or officially declared dead or incapacitated. Florida law requires that a conservator get the approval of the court before selling any of the absentee’s property or real estate.

How does someone petition to be a guardian or a conservator?

In order to petition to be a guardian of an adult in the State of Florida, the person must first be declared incapacitated by the court. The person applying to be a guardian must be over 18 and a resident of the State of Florida or a non-resident directly related to the incapacitated individual. Additionally, one cannot be a guardian if they are the person’s health care provider, provided significant services to the person in a professional or business capacity, are a creditor of the person, have been convicted of a felony, or have been judicially determined to have committed abuse, abandonment, or neglect. The person petitioning for guardianship must provide the nature of the person’s incapacitation (if applicable), the names of next of kin of the individual, the name of the proposed guardian and why they should be appointed, the relationship of the guardian to the incapacitated person or minor, and a list of any other type of guardianship or alternative procedures that the person has had prior to this. 

In the State of Florida, to petition for a conservatorship of an “absentee” individual, the petition must be filed by someone who would have an interest in the property or the estate of the absentee, or by someone who is dependent on the absentee for financial support. If the court declares the person to be an absentee and that a conservatorship is necessary, then the court will appoint a proper and qualified next of kin.

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