The State of Florida allows an attorney to request that the court appoint a legal guardian over a minor or adult who is physically or mentally incapacitated. A guardian generally makes decisions with regard to a ward’s medical, financial and legal matters. In some circumstances, the court may grant the guardian limited power to make decisions over some of his or her ward’s property ownership affairs. An example is an elderly person who is capable of taking care of themselves, but requires someone to make complicated decisions for them concerning their financial or real estate matters. Some guardianship arrangements, however, may not fully serve a family’s overall best interests.
When an 84-year-old owner of a St. Pete Beach hotel sold a building on her property to her great-nephew, a local real estate agent decided to take matters into her own hands. As reported by ABC Action News’ investigation team, she was able to persuade a judge to grant a court-appointed guardianship over the hotel owner.
In response to the realtor’s claim that the great-nephew exploited his aunt when purchasing the unit for less than its fair-market-value, a panel of professionals stepped in to examine the aged hotel owner. The presiding judge determined that the octogenarian hotel owner may not have been of a sound mind when signing the paperwork for the real estate transaction with her great-nephew.
The judge decided that the hotel owner, who had owned and operated her business for more than 30 years, was incapacitated and appointed a guardian to take care of her affairs. Instead of running her hotel business, however, the guardian placed the woman into an assisted living home.
The guardian also prohibited the great-nephew from visiting his aunt and attempted to evict him from the property he purchased. In what may be considered a strong argument for families to take a more forward-thinking approach to estate planning and guardianship, the hotel owner’s money paid for the legal process required to void the sale to the great-nephew.