Written by Jeffrey Skatoff • August 27th, 2014
Some of the problems that potential litigants have in Florida guardianship proceedings are the issue of standing and the ability to get relevant information about the guardianship. For example, an annual guardianship plan is provided to interested persons in the guardianship along with an accounting, but the information disclosed in such documents can be scant, and the information is provided many months after the activities set forth in the plan and accounting.
What can an interested person do if there are concerns about the treatment of the ward in terms of healthcare? What if there are concerns about mismanagement of the ward's assets? Instead of starting with a full scale legal assault on the guardian (which can be expensive and may not work), the Florida Guardianship Rules provide a less drastic step - the Court Monitor.
What is a Court Monitor?
A Court Monitor is a person appointed by the Florida guardianship court to investigate and report on certain activities and events. Florida guardianship statute Section 744.107 provides as follows:
The monitor may investigate, seek information, examine documents, or interview the ward and shall report to the court his or her findings. the report shall be verified and shall be served on the guardian, the ward, and such other persons as the court may determine.
Normally, the guardianship court will issue, in its order appointing the monitor, the specific reasons for the appointment. For example, if there is concern that the guardian is institutionalizing the ward where there are more appropriate and less restrictive living arrangements, a monitor could be asked to investigate and report. If the healthcare that the guardian is directing might be causing the ward more harm than good, the monitor could investigate. the monitor could even be allowed to hire an independent medical expert to assist in reviewing the healthcare of the ward. If the guardian is spending money inappropriately, the monitor could investigate before the annual accounting is filed.
What Happens After the Court Monitor's Report is Submitted to the Guardianship Court?
After the Court Monitor submits his or her report, the Florida Guardianship Code directs the guardianship court to take action:
If it appears from the monitor's report that further action by the court to protect the interests of the ward are necessary, the court shall, after a hearing with notice, enter any order necessary to protect the ward or the ward's estate, including amending the plan, requiring an accounting, ordering production of assets, freezing assets, suspending a guardian, or initiating proceedings to remove a guardian.
What if Action Needs to Be Taken Immediately?
The Florida Guardianship Code provides that an Emergency Court Monitor can be appointed without notice to anyone, if the guardianship court finds that "there appears to be imminent danger that the physical or mental health or safety of the ward will be seriously impaired or that the ward's property is in danger of being wasted, misappropriated, or lost unless immediate action is taken."
Florida guardianship lawyer Jeffrey Skatoff practices throughout the State of Florida. He can be reached at (561) 842-4868.