Florida Guardianship Litigation: What Happens if a Guardian Fails to File an Annual Accounting?
What is an adult guardianship? What are the duties of a guardian in Florida? Does a guardian have to file annual accountings with the Florida guardianship court? What happens if a guardian fails to provide a timely annual report?
Florida Adult Guardianships
At Pankauski Hauser Lazarus, we handle many guardianship cases throughout Florida. When we refer to “guardianships”, we are talking about guardianships over adults, not minors. Commonly, children of the elderly file a guardianship to protect their mom or dad who is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, certain disabled or injured adults may benefit from a guardianship if they are incompetent and unable to take care of themselves.
Florida guardianship courts take guardianship proceedings very seriously because these proceedings can result in a ward’s rights being taken away. The “ward” is the person subject to the guardianship who has been determined to be incompetent or incapacitated. It is important to remember that, even if somebody is deemed incapacitated by a probate court judge in Florida, the court may not appoint a guardian if there’s a lesser restrictive alternative that adequately addresses the incapacitated person’s needs. For example, a power of attorney and a revocable trust may prove to be sufficient.
West Palm Beach guardianship lawyers know that guardianship law is governed by Chapter 744 of the Florida Statutes. If you are involved in guardianship litigation in Palm Beach or anywhere in Florida, you should refer to this chapter. You should also consider interviewing an experienced guardianship lawyer who can answer your questions and properly represent you.
Duty to File Annual Report
Before asking a Florida guardianship court to appoint you as a guardian, you should know that being a guardian comes with a lot of responsibilities. For example, a Florida guardian must file an annual accounting.
Florida Statute 744.367 provides what a guardian must do to properly file the required annual report. There are strict deadlines that must be met and certain items that must be included in the report. A guardian of the property must provide an annual accounting and the guardian of the person must provide an annual guardianship plan. To learn more specifics about the duty of a guardian to file an annual report, read this Florida statute in its entirety.
Lovest v. Mangiero
A recent Third DCA opinion, Lovest v. Mangiero, involves a guardian of the property who did not file annual accountings on time. Here, the guardian hadn’t filed annual reports for seven years but then filed them all at once.
In her appeal of a guardianship court order, the appellant argues that the guardian, who was now serving as the personal representative of the estate, should have provided proper accountings.
As Florida Statute 744.367(5) states, “if the guardian fails to timely file the annual guardianship report, the judge may impose sanctions which may include contempt, removal of the guardian, or other sanctions provided by law in s. 744.3685.” Florida Statute 744.3685 explains that, if the guardian fails to timely file the report, the court shall order the guardian to file the report within fifteen days or be held in contempt or personally fined.
In this particular case, the reports had been filed but not timely. Although the Florida guardianship court should have ordered the guardian to file the annual reports when he failed to so, the guardianship court never did. Therefore, because the guardian was never ordered to provide the accountings, and he was never given the fifteen day deadline, the appellate court found the issue to be moot.
If you are a Florida guardian, and you are being sued for failing to comply with a required duty, you may want to read this case in its entirety. If you are looking to interview a guardianship litigation firm to represent you in a Florida guardianship lawsuit, call (561)514-0900 ext. 101.