Flat Fee Probate & Estate Planning


Dennis J. Szafran is an experienced attorney that shows compassion for his clients through difficult times, especially when the need for a court-appointed guardian arises.

What is Guardianship?

A guardian is a surrogate decision-maker appointed by the court to make either personal and/or financial decisions for a minor or for an adult with mental or physical disabilities.

Guardians are generally appointed for one of two reasons:

  1. For individuals that are over 18 years old and require protection of their well-being and financial interest due to being declared mentally and/or physically incapacitated; and
  2. Florida law requires the court to appoint a guardian for minors in circumstances where the parents die or become incapacitated, or if a child receives an inheritance or proceeds of a lawsuit or insurance policy exceeding the amount allowed by statute.

Guardianship is only warranted when no less restrictive alternative—such as durable power of attorney, trust, health care surrogate or proxy, or other form of pre-need directive—is found by the court to be appropriate and available. Florida law allows both voluntary and involuntary guardianships. A voluntary guardianship may be established for an adult who, though mentally competent, is incapable of managing his or her own estate and who voluntarily petitions for the appointment.

What Does Our Firm Do?

As a guardianship attorney, Dennis J. Szafran, Esq., assists those who are attempting to become a guardian over another or that wish to have a professional guardian appointed for someone. We ensure that the proper paperwork is filed on behalf of the petitioner (the person requesting that the court appoint a guardian) and that the proposed guardian meets the court’s qualifications, attend guardianship hearings, and assist the guardian with the filing of the initial inventory of the ward’s assets, as well as the initial guardianship plan. Thereafter we can be retained for the court required annual plans and accountings.

Common Types of Guardianships – Limited, Plenary, and Temporary:

  • Limited guardianship – powers are limited because the ward can make some, but not all, decisions for himself
  • Plenary guardianship – guardian has broad power to make all decisions for a ward’s personal care and finances
  • Temporary guardianship – used for emergencies and someone immediate need. The guardian’s role is limited to a short time, such as 60 days, depending on state law

Florida law provides for limited as well as plenary adult guardianship. A limited guardianship is appropriate if the court finds the ward lacks the capacity to do some, but not all, of the tasks necessary to care for his or her person or property; and if the individual does not have pre-planned, written instructions for all aspects of his or her life. A plenary guardian is a person appointed by the court to exercise all delegable legal rights and powers of the adult ward after the court makes a finding of incapacity. Wards in plenary guardianships are, by definition, unable to care for themselves.

Depending on which rights are delegated to the guardian, the guardian will be considered a guardian of the person, a guardian of the property, or a guardian of both the person and the property. This designation also dictates which annual reports must be reported to the court.

Who Can Be a Guardian?

A person is qualified to serve as a guardian in Florida if he or she:

  • Is over the age of 18 years of age; and
  • Is a Florida resident; or Is a non-resident who is:
  • Related by direct descent to the ward;
  • A legally adopted child or adoptive parent of the ward;
  • A spouse, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece, or nephew of the ward, or someone elated by lineal consanguinity to any such person; or
  • The spouse of a person otherwise qualified above; and
  • Has never been convicted of a felony.

How long does the guardianship process take?

While temporary or emergency guardianships may be appointed quickly within a few days after the petition is filed, it may be two weeks to as long as two months between petitioning and appointment.

When Does a Guardianship End?

  • The child reaches legal age (usually 18 years old)
  • The ward dies
  • The ward’s assets are used up (if the guardianship was set up solely to handle the ward’s finances), or
  • A judge determines that a guardianship is no longer necessary
  • The guardian petitions the court to resign
  • The ward’s biological parents successfully petition the court to end the guardianship