A Pinellas guardian accused of exploitation has been removed from all cases. Traci Hudson had served as guardian overseeing the affairs of 26 people until her arrest on a charge of exploitation of the elderly. She is accused of swindling half a million dollars from an elderly Pinellas Park man for whom she made financial and health decisions. She allegedly used a power of attorney agreement to take hundreds of thousands of dollars from him. Hudson was not 93-year-old Maurice Myers’ legal guardian, but she had power of attorney over his legal affairs and served as his healthcare surrogate before he died in 2018. Her arrest threw her 26 guardianship cases in Pinellas and Pasco counties into uncertainty. A second case where fines racked up to over $45,000 is part of the larger investigation by the Pinellas County Inspector General’s Office into all of Hudson’s guardianship cases.
Guardianship in Florida.
Elder guardianship is one option when an individual has not appointed a formal power of attorney for health care, or finances but needs someone to oversee their affairs when they become temporarily or permanently incapacitated because of aging, illness and/or disability. A guardianship is a legal proceeding in the circuit courts of Florida in which a guardian is appointed to exercise the legal rights of an incapacitated person. The process is governed by Chapter 744, Florida Statutes.
Anyone over the age of 18 may file a petition with the court to determine another person’s incapacity by stating the case facts pertinent to the actions and needs of a person they believe to be incapacitated. A committee will be appointed by the court, usually made up of two physicians and a trained expert in elder care incapacity, who can give a pertinent opinion to the individual case. A formal report must be submitted to the court by each of the committee members. Examination of the person in question will have to be undertaken, including a physical exam, mental exam and a functional assessment, to determine if they are capable of handling their own affairs. The person who is alleged to be incapacitated will have legal counsel appointed by the court, or they may hire their own attorney. If the committee reports that the person is not incapacitated, the judge is required to dismiss the petition. Conversely, if the committee findings reveal total or partial incapacitation, a guardian will be appointed after an incapacity hearing.
A guardian is an individual or institution (such as a nonprofit corporation or bank trust department) appointed by the court to care for an incapacitated person commonly referred to as a “ward.” Any adult who is related or unrelated to the ward and is a resident of Florida can serve as a guardian as long as they are not a convicted felon, are not capable of carrying out guardian duties, or there is a conflict of interest. An institution such as a nonprofit corporation can also be appointed guardian, but a bank trust department may act as guardian only to matters of the ward’s property.
Guardians are accountable for any action taken on behalf of a ward. It is common for a guardian to provide a bond, and meet the court-approved training program requirements of the state. If a guardian is not properly carrying out their prescribed duties, they may be removed from that position by the court.
Seek legal counsel.
Every guardianship case is unique and involves practical business expertise that an attorney at Baby Boomers’ Barrister Estate Planning and Elder Law can provide in St. Petersburg Florida.