Is Grandma no longer financially capable? Does Uncle Edwin need someone to take over his financial affairs? At Your Caring Law Firm, we recognize that our elders are living longer, and may need help paying bills and handling their assets as they age. We also are big fans of professional guardians.
Many of our clients need to choose a true professional guardian. Here are some helpful hints.
What Makes a True Professional Guardian
Few professions allow you to completely take over someone else’s money. Even fewer professions exist for which it is possible to take a 40-hour class, pass an exam and some background checks, and make upwards of $90 an hour. Unfortunately, in Florida, the two combine. Yes, these minimal requirements are all that the state of Florida warrants to license a professional guardian and allow that person carte blanche over someone else’s money. Scary, isn’t it?
Start with trusted referral sources and follow up with interviews.
How can you differentiate between someone who came into the field through years of related experience versus someone who could be in it for all the wrong reasons?
First, start with referrals from trusted professionals, such as CPAs, estate planning and elder law attorneys, and care managers. Don’t trust paid services, online ads, or a firm related to the professional guardian that may have something to gain. Online reviews might be helpful, but they easily can be manufactured, too. Ask the prospective guardian for the contact number for an existing client. Call the number and ask detailed questions about how long the family has worked with the guardian and what that experience has been like.
Look closely at the potential guardian’s entire career.
Consider the work history of your potential guardian. Is her background full of unrelated pit-stops in jobs having nothing to do with finance or accounting or elder care? Her career as a professional guardian may well be just another temporary gig. Some individuals could find their true calling and excel as a professional guardian, but do you want to take the chance with Mom’s money?
Listen closely to the sales pitch.
A good salesperson can be incredibly charismatic and quickly will establish a good rapport. A true professional guardian may leave you feeling equally at ease. How can you tell the difference? Most professionals carefully vet their prospective clients. Is the guardian you are interviewing promising the moon? Or is she approaching you with caution and serious questions? You are not looking for a new friend. You are looking for a fiduciary who fiercely will protect Uncle Edwin’s assets. Ignore the charm and look for substance.
Research the potential guardian’s personal life.
If the potential guardian has a personal or business bankruptcy on file, you could be generous and think, “Sometimes people fail in order to succeed.” But we caution you to consider the likelihood that the potential guardian’s financial judgment may not have improved at all. If the potential guardian can’t handle his own money, he shouldn’t handle other people’s money. Keep looking.