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Legacy Protection Lawyers St. Petersburg Estate Planning, Probate & Trust Lawyer

What is the Difference Between Conservatorship and Guardianship in Florida?


Many people mistakenly believe that conservatorship and guardianship are synonyms or the same legal proceeding.  However, these two terms describe two different legal processes under Florida law.

In Florida, you can file a petition for guardianship when your family member has become incapacitated due to a bodily injury or illness that has affected his or her judgement to make decisions about themselves.  If your petition is granted and you are appointed guardian, you will assume specific duties and responsibilities to handle the financial (and potentially healthcare) matters on behalf of the incapacitated person.

But how is guardianship different from conservatorship?” you may wonder.

Under § 747.035, Florida Statutes, a conservator has all the powers, rights, and duties of a guardian. However, while guardians are appointed to oversee the legal and financial matters of incapacitated persons, conservators are appointed to handle the affairs of “absentees.”

The rare and unfortunate disappearance of a loved one is a stressful and painful type of loss. If your family member went missing or has disappeared without any explanation, you might need to set up a conservatorship to manage your loved one’s legal and financial matters.

Who is an Absentee?

Section § 747.01, Florida Statutes, defines the term “absentee” as any resident of Florida – or a person who owns property in the State of Florida – who has disappeared and is presumably dead or went missing due to their amnesia, mental derangement, or any other mental illness.

Under Florida law, absentees also include members of the U.S. Armed Forces who:

  • Have been reported missing in action;
  • Have been captured by the enemy; or
  • Have been detained or besieged in a neutral country.

How to Petition for Conservatorship in Florida?

Under Florida law, persons who petition for conservatorship must present evidence proving that:

  1. You would have an interest in the absentee’s estate if they were deceased;
  2. You are dependent upon the absentee for financial support or maintenance; and
  3. The person who went missing meets the legal definition of an “absentee,” as described in § 747.01, Florida Statutes.

When filing a petition for conservatorship, the petitioner must also include the following information:

  • A description of the circumstances under which the said absentee went missing;
  • The reasons why the petitioner should be appointed as the conservator; and
  • A statement listing the said absentee’s property that constitutes their estate, along with an estimate of the estate’s worth.

After receiving your petition, the court will schedule a hearing to review the conservatorship appointment. A guardian ad litem may be appointed to represent the absentee’s interests during the conservatorship court hearing.

Contact a St. Petersburg Guardianship Lawyer

If you are considering petitioning the court for conservatorship or have recently been appointed as conservator, you need to understand all of your rights, duties, and responsibilities.  Managing a missing person’s estate and overseeing the absentee’s legal and financial matters can be a complicated process. Consult with our St. Petersburg lawyers to discuss your situation. Our attorneys at Legacy Protection Lawyers, LLP, can help you navigate the conservatorship process in Florida. Call 727-471-5868 to receive a consultation.

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