With most guardianship cases, it’s a one-on-one relationship. There is one guardian and one client. So, is there ever a time where multiple guardians are acting at the same time, with the same powers? The answer is potentially yes.
There is a very weird makeshift land where two guardians with the same apparent authority can be appointed to a client. One guardian is newly appointed, and the other is leaving but not yet fully discharged by the court.
Some ways this may occur include:
#1 A professional guardian is appointed as the Emergency Temporary Guardian (ETG) for an urgent case where there is a caring, interested family member who, for any number of reasons, is not appointed as the ETG guardian, but is appointed as the Permanent Guardian (limited or plenary, property or person) at the incapacity hearing.
#2 A professional guardian is asked to become the successor guardian for a family guardian who is no longer able to continue to serve.
#3 The courts remove the current guardian (for any reason, including: failure to maintain their SPGO registration, etc.) and a professional guardian is appointed the successor guardian through the court’s actions.
These are just a few scenarios showing how two guardians could have authority to act at the same time. In the transitional period when one guardian is appointed and the other has yet to be completely discharged, both guardians can be legally bestowed with the same rights and responsibilities to the same client.
Per Florida Statute 744.467: “…Before entering an order discharging a guardian of the property, the court shall require the guardian to file a true and correct final report of his or her guardianship and to deliver to the successor guardian all property of the ward … A guardian of the person must deliver to the successor guardian copies of all records of medical or personal care, prior to being discharged. Before entering the order, the court shall be satisfied that the interest of the ward …”
This can create a messy situation for everyone involved. The bond company might be concerned with the additional liability as more than one guardian has access. Medical providers for the client will have a hard time knowing “who is on first,” when it comes to making health decisions. Other providers such as credit unions and banks, DME providers, APD, Medicaid, Social Security and funeral homes have no way of knowing the circumstances of the successor guardianship. They only know what documents are presented to them, which could cause issues during and after the transitional period.
If the two guardians and their counsels are cooperative with one another, things can, and often do, go fine. However, it is when they don’t work well together that it gets complicated and could become adversarial.
While there are many instances of guardians working together successfully, there are stories where they don’t get along. When this happens, it makes things difficult for everyone involved, especially the client.
If you find yourself about to get involved with a case where you are not the first and only guardian, you may wish to discuss the situation in depth with your counsel, and maybe even your bond provider. What’s more, you may wish to seek the advice of other guardians who have walked down this road before so that you will know what to consider before accepting the case.
This blog is shared by Theresa Barton, the expert behind The Guardian Network with more than 25 years of experience in the field of Elder Advocacy, Care Management and Guardianship. Learn more about Theresa’s work and resources for families, caregivers and health, support and legal professionals here.
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