Tallahassee, Florida –
When out-of-state family members make the painful decision to find a professional guardian to look after the affairs of an elderly loved one, they want to be sure the person they hire is fully qualified to serve in that important role. When judges need to appoint a legal guardian for a Floridian who can’t make his or her own decisions, they want the same assurance.
Thanks to a new online system launched by the Statewide Public Guardianship Office, families and judges can be sure in real time who is – and who is not – a fully qualified guardian. The rollout of the new system comes during Florida Guardianship Month, which runs all of October.
Guardians serve as legal representatives for Floridians who are no longer able to make decisions for themselves. Public guardians serve on behalf of indigent Floridians who don’t have resources, family or friends to help them, while professional guardians may be hired to protect another’s interests. In the last year Florida’s public guardians assisted more than 2,500 incapacitated persons through 15 public guardianship programs serving 20 Florida counties.
The Statewide Public Guardianship Office, a unit of the Department of Elder Affairs, currently has 396 registered professional guardians, a number that changes each week as new guardians are added and others’ registration expires. Previously, the official online listing of registered professional guardians was updated only once each week. As a result, for example, brand-new guardians could show up in court for a vital proceeding but the judge would not be able to verify whether that person was actually a registered guardian. In such a situation, the judge would run the risk of allowing an unauthorized person to carry out guardian duties or denying that opportunity to someone who was properly qualified to serve.
At the request of the guardian community, the Statewide Public Guardianship Office developed the online system to resolve the problem. The new system, which updates in real time, enables family members, judges and others to learn immediately whether a person is in fact a qualified guardian.
“We are excited to be able to offer this valuable resource to our partners in the court system and to the community at large,” said Yolanda Siples, director of the Statewide Public Guardianship Office. “With the real-time capabilities of the new system, individuals can feel assured that the guardians appointed to represent their loved ones have met the criteria and are properly registered.”
The new real-time system identifies current guardians and indicates former guardians who are no longer qualified to serve in that role. The listing is available through the link below.