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.