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How does a guardianship affect a health care advance directive?

On Behalf of | Jan 27, 2023 | Estate Planning, Guardianship |

In Florida, adults who have a sudden mental or physical disability that results in them needing to have a guardianship might have documents in place that were put in effect prior to the illness, injury or condition.

Since a guardianship makes that person a ward to the guardian, this might cause confusion in some situations. For instance, it could set up conflict if the ward has an advance directive for health care: Does the guardian’s decision outweigh the advance directive, or is it the other way around?

What does the law say about guardians and a ward’s advance directive?

When an adult is found to be incapable of making their own decisions, a court may appoint a guardian. This can be voluntary or involuntary. When considering a guardianship in which the person had an advance directive for health care, the court takes specific steps.

The court must first determine if the ward had a document detailing the type of life-prolonging procedures that will be done if necessary. Examples of what would be in an advance health care directive are if a respirator to help them breathe is needed or they must be provided with liquid nutrition. If it is valid, the court will then make it clear as to what authority the guardian and the ward will have under the guardianship and what can and cannot be done.

The court can revoke the authority to make these decisions for the ward. To do this, there must be findings of fact justifying it. The court can also allow the guardian to make decisions for the ward.

Understanding all areas of a guardianship may require qualified assistance

A guardian is granted wide autonomy under the law. It is natural to be confused and worried about how that might alter decisions that the adult ward made before needing a guardian. Since the advance directive for health care is so sensitive a topic, it is imperative to understand this from the outset.

This is true from the perspective of the person who is set to be a guardian, a person who is planning their advance directive for health care and others who maintain an interest in the ward’s well-being. For these cases, it is wise to have professional assistance from those who are experienced in guardianships, estate planning and more.