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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Concerned Friend

If you suspect that your friend or acquaintance is being abused, neglected or exploited, please contact the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).

If you suspect that your friend or acquaintance is being abused, neglected or exploited, please contact the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).

If you suspect that your friend or acquaintance is being abused, neglected or exploited, please contact the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).

If you suspect that your friend or family member is being abused, neglected or exploited, please contact the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).

Alternatively, if your friend/ acquaintance needs a person to make decisions on his or her behalf, you may petition the court to appoint a legal guardian of the property for your friend/acquaintance. Before the court appoints a legal guardian, the court must find your friend/ acquaintance to be incapacitated. To do this, you will need to file a Petition to Determine Incapacity with the Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts and obtain a mental health case number.

Florida law allows any adult person, even a non-family member such as a friend or acquaintance, to execute a Petition to Determine Incapacity. In the Petition to Determine Incapacity, you will need to list all the names, relationships and addresses of the next of kin of your friend/ acquaintance that you know. The Petition to Determine Incapacity must be verified, meaning that the person executing it declares that the petition is true under a penalty of perjury.

Once the petition for determination of capacity is filed, three members of the court’s Examining Committee will visit your family member and evaluate him or her. The Examining Committee consists of eleven psychologists and psychiatrists. The examination of the incapacitated person normally includes: a physical examination, a mental health examination and a functional assessment. After the Examining Committee member evaluates your family member, he or she will write a report as to their findings and whether he or she considers your family member to be incapacitated. Judges read the reports from the Examining Committee members to decide whether your family member is incapacitated.

If the court decides that your family member is incapacitated, then the court will recommend that a guardian be appointed. The second step in the process is to open a separate guardianship legal proceeding, obtain a guardianship case number and file a Petition to Appoint Guardian. The guardianship legal proceeding has a different case file than the mental health proceeding in which the Ward was found to be incapacitated. For information on Guardianships, please visit the Guardianship page here.

The law requires that all guardians must be represented by an attorney. Fla. Prob. R. 5.030(a). If you cannot afford an attorney, please contact the Dade County Bar Association Legal Aid at 305-579-5733 or Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. at 305-576-0080.

Any adult may file a petition with the court to determine another person’s incapacity, setting forth the factual information upon which they base their belief that the person is incapacitated.

The court then appoints a committee of three members, usually two physicians and another person who by knowledge, skill, training or education can form an expert opinion. One of the three members of the committee must have knowledge of the type of incapacity alleged in the petition, and each member of the committee must submit a report of findings to the court.

The examination of the incapacitated person normally includes: a physical examination, a mental health examination and a functional assessment.

The court also appoints an attorney to represent the person alleged to be incapacitated; however, the alleged incapacitated person may substitute his or her own attorney for the attorney appointed by the court. If the majority of the examining committee members conclude that the alleged incapacitated person is not incapacitated in any respect, the judge is required to dismiss the petition. If the examining committee finds the person is unable to exercise certain rights, however, the court schedules a hearing to determine whether the person is totally or partially incapacitated. If a person is found to be incapacitated in any respect, a guardian is appointed at the end of the incapacity hearing unless there are less restrictive alternatives to guardianship that adequately address the person’s incapacity.

You will receive a notice from the court with the date and time of the hearing. You will need to be present at this hearing.

Also, the Examining Committee members will be making arrangements to visit your friend/acquaintance to evaluate him or her. If possible, please assist the Examining Committee members with securing a date, time and place to evaluate your friend/acquaintance.

You will need to open a separate legal guardianship case and file a Petition to Appoint Guardian. The guardianship case number will be separate from the mental health case number. Your friend’s/ acquaintance’s next of kin must be served with the Petition to Appoint Guardian and the Notice of Hearing for the Petition to Appoint Guardian.

The judge will decide whether you may be appointed guardian. Any adult resident of Florida, related or unrelated to the potential ward, can serve as a guardian. Certain relatives of the ward who do not live in Florida also may serve as guardian. However, people who have been convicted of a felony or who are incapable of carrying out the duties of a guardian cannot be appointed.

If the incapacitated person has a written declaration of pre-need guardian, the court shall appoint that guardian, as long as he/she/it is qualified, unless the court determines appointing such guardian is contrary to the best interests of the ward.

The court may not appoint a guardian in some circumstances in which a conflict of interest may occur.

The law requires that all guardians must be represented by an attorney. Fla. Prob. R. 5.030(a). If you cannot afford an attorney, please contact the Dade County Bar Association Legal Aid at 305-579-5733 or Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. at 305-576-0080.

If your friend/acquaintance is not found to be incapacitated, then the court cannot appoint a guardian. Once the judge makes a determination as to capacity, the mental health case is closed.

Once the judge makes a determination as to capacity, the mental health case is closed.

You will need to open a separate legal guardianship case and file a Petition to Appoint Guardian. The guardianship case number will be separate from the mental health case number. Your friend’s/ acquaintance’s next of kin must be served with the Petition to Appoint Guardian and the Notice of Hearing for the Petition to Appoint Guardian.

Please review the guardianship page to see the steps you need to take to become the guardian.

Once the judge makes a determination as to capacity, the mental health case is closed.

If your friend/acquaintance is not found to be incapacitated, then the court cannot appoint a guardian.

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