Next of Kin Gives no Standing in Florida Guardianship Proceedings

Based on a recent appellate decision from Florida, “standing” in some guardianship matters has been severely curtailed to those persons with a direct interest in the proceedings.

Being next of kin, standing alone, gives no standing to participate in some matters before the guardianship court. Spouses, adult children and parents of wards may have limited to zero rights to oversee and protect the affairs of their kinship and loved ones.

In Rudolph v. Rosecan (4th DCA 2014), the Court held that the mother of an autistic adult ward was not an “interested person” for the purpose of inspecting guardianship reports and other information. The father had been appointed plenary guardian. 

The parents had agreed to a parenting and timesharing plan, where the parents had shared parental responsibility and required them to confer and attempt to agree on all major issues affecting the ward.  The father had the ultimate authority in the case of no agreement.

A dispute entailed, and the father / guardian moved to dismiss the mother’s objections to the annual guardianship plan, which includes an accounting and other financial matters.  In denying the mother’s standing to participate in or object to the annual accounting or other financial matters, the court rejected the idea that standing can be obtained through one’s status as next of kin.  Although next of kin gives a person certain rights with respect to a guardianship proceeding, that status, standing alone, does not give the standing necessary to receive accountings or other financial information. 

The Court relied on the Florida Supreme Court of Hayes v. Guardianship of Thompson, 952 So.2d 498 (Fla. 2006), which held that heirs to a ward’s estate do not have standing to participate in a proceeding regarding the guardian’s fees.  The Court also relied on the case of Bivens v. Rogers, 147 So.3d 549 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014), which held that a next of kin could not initiate proceedings to change the residence of a ward. 

As our supreme court has taught us, there is no bright-line rule. A person’s status as an “interested person” with standing in a guardianship proceeding is dependent upon whether the person would be affected by the outcome of the proceedings. Simply being next of kin does not confer “interested person” status.

Perhaps the rulings of the cases do not shut out family members as much as a first reading might suggest.  Instead, family members who wish to participate in guardianship proceedings need to articulate specific ways in which they will be affected by the proceedings, be they financial or otherwise.  

Jeffrey Skatoff is a Florida probate attorney.  To have Mr. Skatoff review your case free of charge, please go to his website.

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