A guardian advocate is someone who has been appointed with the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of another person. The other person, called the “ward”, is usually someone over the age of 18 with a developmental disability. A guardian advocate is very similar to a typical adult guardian. The main difference between the two is that, with a guardian advocate, the ward does not need to be fully incapacitated due to their disability.

Guardian advocacy can be advantageous for people who need someone to act legally on their behalf due to cerebral palsy, autism, Down’s syndrome, or other life-long medical conditions. The process for becoming a guardian advocate begins with putting in a request, which must be approved by the court. In some cases, the guardian advocate may be required to take a special educational course on guardianship responsibilities before they can be allowed to be a guardian advocate.

The term “guardian advocacy” is most commonly used in Florida. Other states have similar roles, but may have different titles for them.

What Are the Duties of a Guardian Advocate?

There are two main types of guardian advocates: guardian advocate of the person and guardian advocate of the property. For a guardian advocate of the person, the guardian is responsible for duties and decisions that the ward not be able to handle, such as:

  • Consenting or denying medical treatment for the ward
  • Making various decisions regarding the ward’s social interactions
  • Making legal decisions regarding the person’s place of residence

A guardian advocate of the property may be responsible for:

  • Filing requests with the court regarding the ward’s property
  • Engaging in legal contracts on behalf of the ward
  • Overseeing property owned by the ward
  • Managing gifts and other legal transfers to the person
  • Engaging in lawsuits that the ward may be involved in

If the guardian has been granted property rights in relation to the ward, then state law generally requires the guardian to obtain legal representation when filing for guardianship rights.

Are There Alternatives for Guardian Advocacy?

Guardian advocacy can often be an advantageous arrangement for both the guardian advocate and the ward due to the amount of responsibility that the guardian can assume. In most cases, a guardian advocate has all the rights and duties of any regular guardian.

In cases where the ward still has some capacities, other less-involved alternatives might be an option. These options include a living will, an advanced directive, or a durable power of attorney. Less-involved alternatives often allow for decision-making powers to be transferred in a fashion that is not as restrictive.

In cases where the ward is incapacitated, other more-involved alternatives include a healthcare proxy, which can provide more specific instructions regarding the person’s medical condition.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Guardian Advocacy Laws?

Guardianship advocacy is a fairly specific type of guardianship arrangement. You may need to hire a family law attorney in your area if you need any legal advice or guidance when it comes to the guardianship laws in your area. Your attorney can provide you with legal research and assistance, and can help you file documents or requests with the court. Also, if you encounter any conflicts, or if you need to file a lawsuit, your lawyer can represent you during court meetings as well.