Depending on the level of incapacity established by the Sarasota or Manatee County Florida Probate Court for the Ward, the Guardian may be required to seek court approval for various decisions. Determination of Incapacity: Under Florida guardianship law, a Sarasota Florida resident can be judged to be in need of guardianship when he or she lacks the ability to make responsible decisions. This has been defined to include the lack of capacity to make sound decisions. This determination will be made by three licensed professional (including a physician).

The Sarasota & Manatee County Florida Guardianship Process: Under Florida guardianship law, anyone interested in the "alleged" incapacitated individual's well-being can initiate a Florida guardianship proceeding. At the initial emergency guardianship hearing, the Sarasota or Manatee County Florida Probate Court will evaluate the evidence presented and attempt to determine whether an "Emergency Temporary Guardian" needs to be appointed for the alleged incapacitated Sarasota or Manatee County Florida resident. If sufficient evidence is presented, the Sarasota or Manatee County Florida probate Court will determine whether the individual (spouse, family member, friend, neighbor or professional guardian) or organization seeking the role of guardian will be appointed to serve as their guardian. When appointing an individual to serve as a Guardian, the Sarasota or Manatee County Florida Probate Court will give first consideration to family members and then those who play a significant role in the individual's life and who are both aware of and sensitive to the Ward's needs and preferences.

Less Restrictive Alternatives: Florida law requires that Probate Judges use the “least restrictive means” available in protecting an individual unable to care for themself.  A less restrictive option consists of a Power of Attorney and Health Care Surrogate.  Despite Florida law and the existence of less restrictive options, many Judges are still inclined to appoint a guardian.

Sarasota & Manatee Guardian of the Property: A Sarasota or Manatee guardian of the property will be responsible to inventory the property of the ward, invest it prudently, use it for the ward’s support, and account for it by filing detailed annual reports with the court. In addition, they must obtain Sarasota or Manatee County Probate Court approval for certain financial transactions, such as selling or mortgaging property. The Sarasota or Manatee County Court may order the guardian to take control of and be responsible for the following: Acting as representative payee, determining benefits, obtaining appraisals of property, protecting property and assets from loss, receiving income for the estate, and making appropriate disbursements (the guardian may need to obtain court approval prior to the disposition of those assets enumerated in Florida Statute 744,441)

Sarasota and Manatee Guardian of the Person: The Sarasota or Manatee guardian of the person may exercise only those personal rights that have been removed from the ward and delegated to them, such as to consent to medical, mental and personal care services and to determine the place and kind of residential setting best suited for the ward. The Sarasota guardian of the person must also present to the Sarasota or Manatee Probate Court an initial guardianship plan including provisions for medical, mental health and personal care services and the type of residential setting best suited for the ward every year thereafter.

Because establishing a guardianship is highly intrusive and involves the removal of rights from an individual, it should be considered only after all alternatives have been examined. When an individual still retains the capacity to act on his/her own behalf, the following may be evaluated and determined as viable alternatives to guardianship: Case /Care Management, Healthcare Surrogacy, Revocable Trust, Durable Power of Attorney, Living Wills and Joint Tenancy.

Annual Reporting Requirements: To avoid the potential for abuse, Sarasota and Manatee County Florida Probate Courts hold guardians accountable for their actions. A Sarasota or Manatee County Florida Guardian of the Property is responsible to inventory the Ward's property (real and personal), invest the Ward's funds, and file annual detailed financial reports with the court. In addition, a Sarasota or Manatee County Florida Guardian of the Person must file an annual report on the Ward's physical health and care. This includes proof of adequate residential arrangements for the Ward, sufficient health care and treatment services, and that educational and training programs have been made available to the Ward.


Every Sarasota and Bradenton Florida resident is presumed to be capable of making his or her own decisions unless a Sarasota or Manatee County Florida Probate Court determines they lack capacity. If a Sarasota or Manatee County resident becomes incapable of making responsible decisions for themself a Florida Probate Court can appoint a substitute decision maker ("Guardian") to act on their behalf.

Marc J. Soss, Esq. | (941) 928-0310
​2070 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, FL