Going Down the Rabbit Hole



As a plenary guardian for the person and property, there is a lot to do. The question is how far to go? What is the possible net gain?
The cost of doing this is something to consider. The courts expect value for the time you spend (and time charged to the client). They also may expect you to look for unclaimed funds, but they do not want you to “waste” the ward’s time (or money) going down rabbit holes that have nothing in them.

But, how do you know if all the research and time will end up benefiting the client in the end?
We became the guardian for Mrs. T. in 2012. Her spouse had passed away in 2007.
Since her job was an admin in H.R., she was organized and a well-trained, experienced administrator, it would be reasonable to assume that she had filed for his life insurance claims years before, right?


Nope, not only that but for over those 5 years since his death, she had been continuing to have his life insurance premiums deducted from her federal pension, costing her thousands.


Because we did all the research, going back 5 years, we were able to file for his life insurance claim and get the reimbursement of all those premiums as well. Thousands of dollars gained…this time.


Face Sheet 2.0



If you have been reading our newsletter or social media stuff for a while, you have probably seen the issues with face sheets come up. So if I sound like a broken record, I am. We make it our practice to get a “PAPER” copy of a client’s face sheet – from EVERYWHERE, OFTEN — from hospices, group homes, hospitals, clinics, SNF, ALF, AFCH, Day Programs, physician offices, insurance companies, Pension companies…You name it.



The Face Sheet may have another name — Client Profile, Data Sheet, Demographics Record…Tomato – TOMAAATOE – Potato – POTAAATO. All the same concept — the problem is that what the computer shows on the screen, what you think is on that face sheet and what belongs on that face sheet, are OFTEN not the same as what is actually on it.



Case in point – we recently were with a guardianship client at an imaging center of a hospital. I, as her plenary Guardian, signed all the consent screens (screens – which by the way, I also require them to print ANY document that I sign electronically, but I digress). I also went over, verbally, the accuracy of the face sheet. At the end, I asked for a copy of that face sheet – and low and behold guess what is wrong? The face sheet – reading the face sheet in the waiting room, we see that I have (personally) been put on the field as Personally Reasonable for the bills of this client – NOPE, be VERY careful, not to become PERSONALLY responsible for any client’s bills.


So, big reminder: get the face sheet — printed — and read them. More often than not, there will be errors or outdated information that needs to be collected.



2017 Disabilities Training Conference

Each year the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program holds a conference for child welfare attorneys, child welfare professionals, and judges who represent and work with dependent children with disabilities. This popular conference is known for its advanced material and workshops.  The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program invites you to join fellow child welfare professionals at the 2017 Disabilities Training Conference: Making the Impossible Possible to be held May 4-5, 2017 at the Rosen Centre in Orlando, Florida. The conference will:
  • Advance attorney advocacy and courtroom skills to ensure the best outcomes for dependent children with disabilities.
  • Promote understanding of the intricacies of government agency processes and how they must be coordinated to improve outcomes for dependent children with disabilities.
  • Impart advanced advocacy strategies for dependent children with disabilities.
  • Develop connections among participants and agencies to better determine appropriate resources for dependent children with disabilities.

To Register for the conference: click here.


What Makes a Dog a Legal Companion or Emotional Support Dog?


Image Source: swong95765

If you were to go online and look for certification for your dog as a companion or emotional support animal you would find a number of websites that offer certificates, patches, ID tags, etc. for a fee, but is it worth spending $69.95 to get your dog certified?  Many of these websites lead you to believe that with their certification, you will be able to take your dog anywhere, including airplanes and government buildings, but let’s look at the facts.


By federal regulation, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  These tasks need to be specific to the individual’s disability; such as a guide dog for a visually impaired individual or a medical alert dog for someone with seizures or diabetes.  Service dogs do not have to be obtained through a service dog organization and registration of a service dog is not mandated by federal law.  The law does not require a service dog to wear any identifying vest or ID.  The law does specifically exclude dogs whose sole function is to provide emotional support.  State laws may allow for a broader definition; both in the type of animals that qualify and the service they offer, so you may want to refer to your state’s statute for clarification.


When a service dog is in public, a business owner has the right to ask the disabled individual (or someone accompanying them) what tasks the service dog performs.  It is very important that the individual is able to name tasks that relate to their disability or the business owner can deny access to the service animal.  A business cannot deny access due to fear of dogs or allergies.  This includes work and school.


When a service dog is in public they must be under the control of their handler at all times.  It is preferred that a service animal have a harness, leash or tether but they can be loose if using these items limits the animals ability to safely and effectively perform the tasks it has been trained to do.  In that case the handler must be able to maintain control of the animal through verbal commands and/or gestures.  If a service animal is considered out of control, a business has the right to ask that the animal be removed from the premises; but the individual has to be allowed to finish their business (without the presence of the service animal).


So how can an emotional support or companion dog be a legal service animal with all the protections that come with the title?  According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, one acceptable category of service dog is a psychiatric service dog.  By definition a psychiatric service dog aids individuals with cognitive, psychiatric, or neurological disabilities.  This opens the door for someone with PTSD or another severe emotional condition to qualify, if their physician can document an emotional condition that rises to the standard of a psychiatric diagnosis or the condition effects cognitive functioning.


Despite the exclusion of emotional support dogs in public, some airlines will allow an emotional support animal to fly with an individual if their primary care physician provides appropriate documentation.


Warning:  Some folks just put a vest on a dog and fake it. That may work, or it may fail.  There have been recent discussion with law makers for this to be a punishable offense.


Sources:;; and Florida Statutes 413.08

There is Something New Every Day

birthday candlesAs a Guardian, there truly is something new every day…

This week I was contacted by a dialysis center that had an intellectually challenged 18-year-old young man who has been on their transplant list for years.

This young man had just turned 18, and now the transplant team’s admin folks require that he have a guardian to stay on the transplant list, because they feel he does not have capacity to consent.

So the question is which type of guardianship is right for him?

A 744 — adult guardianship or 393 – Guardian Advocate for a developmentally-disabled guy?

I have a conference call with the transplant teams’ admin folks scheduled, so we’ll see where this goes.

Like I said – there really is something new every day. You just can’t make this stuff up.

The Risks and Difficulties of Selling Ward’s Cars, Boats, Trailers and More

Vintage Car, image via Riley

Vintage Car, image via Riley

It looks like selling some titled property in Florida may be getting a bit more complicated– especially if it was not titled in Florida.

In the past I have written stories about the many pitfalls with selling cars, boats, trailers, and other property as a guardian.

These stories range from having a potential buyer attempt to steal a ward’s SUV during a test drive, to making sure (by going to the DMV with the buyer) that the title immediately transfers out of the ward’s name, to the risk of accepting a cashier’s checks from a buyer.

This twist is a requirement that I was not aware of, and you may not be either. This could cause a real struggle with one of these sales.

First let me say that the best way to resolve most all of these issues is to sell the car, boat, trailer, or other property in person (with you, the vehicle and the buyer) at the Florida Tax Collector/DMV office. This location provides extra security as there are usually law enforcement folks around to protect your personal safety as well as the property. Even better if it is a cash transaction to be fairly public.

This scenario may be very difficult if the buyer is from another state, if the vehicle is located in another state, if it does not run, if it is not insured or if it cannot be moved. Then what?


Form 82050

Florida DMV is becoming less willing to accept a Bill of Sale on any format other than their own form: form 82050. If this is true for other states as well, then that may make this really difficult to resolve.

Form 82050 requires a copy of the seller’s drivers license. First you have to first determine the answer to the question: who is that? You or the ward?

Let’s assume the DMV determines it is you, as the guardian. Then you have the concern of giving your personal and private info (printed on your driver’s license) to a buyer, before they give it to their home state’s DMV.  Bad idea.

The 82050 form is relevant for all used motor vehicles and trailers not currently titled in Florida and with a net weight of 2,000 pounds or above.


Form 82042

Then there is the HSMV 82042 form. This is a bit easier to deal with, as long as you deal with it while the vehicle is in your possession.

The 82042 form is an owner’s affidavit. Again, you have to deal with the “who is the owner” with your local DMV office.  You have to get the current odometer reading (sometimes hard to do with a dead electronic dash). You’ll need a law enforcement officer, notary or dealer to do this in person with you. If the car runs, has a tag and has current insurance, you can do this at the DMV.

Hope this gives you just a bit of food for thought if you are faced with selling a ward’s property. There are certainly a lot of “if this, then that” situations to consider…

How to Approach a Doctor’s Appoint as a Guardian

doctor in lab coat

Image via Ilmicrofono Oggiono

We recently attended a neurologist appointment with one of our young guardianship clients. In the past she had a history of seizures, but they had been successfully under control for an extended period of time. During her annual appointment, the doctor started to talk to the client about her interest in driving, considering that her seizures were well-controlled.

This was a very difficult situation, as the client had been determined to be totally incapacitated and had her right to drive removed by the probate courts many years ago. She was so confused – here a neurologist, a high level doctor, started to ask her if she wants to drive. Then here we are, trying to explain to her that the guardianship courts had removed her right to drive. We spent a good bit of time trying to calm her, and to help her to understand this complicated circumstance about her right to drive.

We were also frustrated with the physician. He did not think about the ramifications of what he was saying to her, maybe because he did not recall that the client was in a guardianship, maybe because he was trying to give her some hope and help in being able to drive. Whatever the cause, it was very hard for this client to grasp this. After this, she was distrustful of many of our conversations – regardless of the subject– and she continued to refer back to the doctors’ discussion for a long time afterwards.

So how do we prevent this from happening in the future?

To be fair, doctors and their offices, and frankly ALL of the health care providers in the U.S., are dealing with mountains of shifting sands in our new “Affordable Care Act” health care system each and every day. Each day they are trying to figure out (just like we are) how to work within this new system of moving deductibles, elusive co-pays,  codes that don’t match the diagnostic procedures – all this while trying to focus on their real job – which is providing quality health care to their patients.

To prevent such a mistake happening in the future, remind the office and the doctor (privately, with dignity) before the appointment, or just as the doctor is about to come in. (We often wait for the doctor just outside of the exam room.) Remind the doctor of the legal status of the patient that they are about to see. This may help the doctor to recall this small detail as he/she is seeing the patient and save you loads of work later.

Quick Test: What Kind of Advocate-Entrepreneur Are You?

elderly man reading

Image via simpleinsomnia

What kind of advocate-entrepreneur are you? Or are you maybe a combination of these?


A – Analytical-Entrepreneur: You perform deep analysis of any new client to determine profitability of that case before accepting the client. You are a pessimist in thinking that there will not be enough funds to care for the client.


B – Risk Taker-Entrepreneur: You accept cases where there are no immediately available funds to care for the client. Or where the major assets are a mess, there are title problems or are in unsellable condition. You are optimistic that there are benefits or assets that will be found to pay for the client’s care and needs.


C – Administrator-Entrepreneur: You have created and keep a current, detailed written Policy & Procedures for the whole system you have created.


D – Social Worker-Entrepreneur: You have brought a client to your home for a night during an emergency or for a holiday meal.

How far back and deep should you delve ?

Image via hobvias sudoneighm

Image via hobvias sudoneighm

As the years have gone by, we have learned the many twists that can come up when becoming the guardian for a person who has had dementia for years or decades. It is often surprising how deep and far back we need to go to resolve issues.

Case in point — we became the guardian for a windowed gal, Cynthia, in 2013. She was a retired civil servant who had worked for decades as a government contracts-comptroller and in an H.R. pension support position.

She was very astute to the business world, to how pensions worked and how life and health insurance worked. She was a very detailed bookkeeper who had appeared to be organized, disciplined and methodical in her personal business affairs by the old records we found.

However, we also found that in the more recent years, she wrote reminders to herself,  hundreds and hundreds of reminders, for the same actions: pay a bill, call the tax office, file a claim form. But it appeared that she did not take those actions,  she just kept reminding herself to-do’s, still leaving them undone.

So after many months of fighting with the pension provider to accept the letters of guardianship, we finally got a copy of her pension check stub with the gross amounts and the details of the amounts being withheld from her retirement check and for what.

We were shocked to find that there was an ongoing deduction, each month, for a spouse’s life insurance policy.

Why were we shocked? Her spouse had been deceased since 2005, and she had never remarried.

In speaking with her friends, they could not understand why she was still paying life insurance premiums for her husband, who had been dead for 8 years. Since she worked in H.R and in pension support in her career, she would have understood how this all worked.

This made us wonder: had she ever filed the claim on his life insurance(s) when he passed? We dug in and, as it turned out, NOPE.

So we filed the claim for $ 25,000, and then we started the fight to get the years of premiums (paid on a dead fella) back from the federal government.

So, back to the question: how far back and deep should you delve? You decide. 🙂

Tales of Guardianship: Where to Look

OGpapersWe were the guardian of a fella who lived in an independent  community. He had agency caregivers most days and many nights.

It was a common problem that he would “lose” his spending money (his mad money authorized by court order for his personal spending). Sometimes he would say the caregivers took it; other times he would hide it for later; and sometimes he did spend it.

As his condition deteriorated, we slowly stopped giving him cash because of this lost/stolen pattern.

After we moved him to a memory unit, we cleaned out his apartment. To our surprise, this empty cell phone box was where we found the hidden cash.

As a reminder, some clients can hide stuff in very ingenious places. You have to open each box, every envelope, each bag, look under every drawer, in AC vents, in curtain’s hems, in the oven pan drawer, under loose carpet corners, in ice cream cartons in the freezer, in dog food bags, in toilet tanks, in a box of old rags in the shed… this list is just a short sample of some of the cool-creative places we’ve found hidden stuff.