Florida Probate Courts Establish New Eldercaring Model

Arbitration"I've served in every division," says a former judge. "But the anger that burns in probate cases burns incandescent."

The situation can get out of control easily when there's bad blood in the family of an elder who develops dementia or frailty. Long-time rivalries and resentments only complicate the difficult issues of how best to care for a vulnerable older parent or spouse. The Sarasota (FL) Herald-Tribune's article, "Trying mediation to stem family feuds," says that if the dispute reaches a boiling point, the likely result is an adult guardianship process that strips the elder of any legal right to make decisions and puts a relative or professional in full charge of his or her finances, personal life and health care.

The more complicated and deep-seated the family feud, the more likely it is that a probate judge will have to appoint an outsider to act as the elder's guardian. Florida's probate system can make guardianship matters worse, some say. But Florida's 12th Circuit is one of eight districts trying an experiment with potential to stem the costly and bitter litigation that can happen with guardianship cases. If successful, it could be a guide to help families settle differences without resorting to probate court.

Eldercaring coordination is a conflict resolution plan that brings all of the interested parties to the table to develop a caregiving plan. Modeled on one used successfully in high-conflict divorce cases—parenting coordination—it's two years in the making. The goal is to save time, money, and headaches, while concentrating on the elder's safety and autonomy. This puts the solution back in the family's hands, with the assistance of the eldercaring coordinator.

Because this is experimental and not court-ordered, family members must volunteer to participate. Plus, since it is unfunded, each participant must pay a portion of the cost, although coordinators may do some work pro bono. Embattled families are angry at the whole process. They don't want to spend any more money, and that's something the eldercare coordinator will have to overcome.  The moral of this story is that you need to get your planning in place in advance of the need for those legal documents.  We can help you with that; call us at 757-259-0707.

Reference: (Sarasota, FL) Herald-Tribune (December 5, 2015) "Trying mediation to stem family feud"

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