The Florida House voted 117-0 to grant final legislative approval to HB 1349 by Rep. Linda Chaney, R-St. Petersburg. Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Orange Park, sponsored the companion, SB 1710.
The Florida Bar’s recent article entitled “Bill Creates a Statewide Guardianship Database” reports that the measure will create a statewide database that will help with future reforms.
“This amendment establishes a guardianship database that we first heard last week,” Chaney said. “So thank you for recognizing this as a first step, and for supporting it, and I hope that you can help me take it to the next step.”
The bill would require the Florida Clerks of Court Operations Corporation and the clerks of court to create a statewide database of guardian and guardianship case information by July 2023. The database would be accessible only by judges, magistrates, court clerks and certain court personnel. It would include the registration status and “substantiated” disciplinary history of professional guardians. In addition, the bill would require the Office of Public and Professional Guardians to post searchable profiles of registered professional guardians on a website by July 2023.
Profiles would provide whether the professional guardian meets educational and bonding requirements, the number and type of substantiated complaints filed against the guardian and any disciplinary actions imposed by the Department of Elder Affairs. Data related to individual wards would be “deidentified” to protect their privacy. The restriction is needed to protect wards.
“The reason for that is there are times when family members have good intentions, and family members have bad intentions,” Chaney said. “So, we didn’t want them to have full access to the ward’s information, and maybe be part of a problem.”
The Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers organized the taskforce in the summer of 2021 to start addressing the issue. The group included legislators, court clerks, court system employees who work with guardianships, lawyers from the Elder Law and Real Property, Probate and Trust Law sections, consumer advocates, a former ward and others. The task force was given an open-ended mission to make recommendations for improving the system.
In addition to the database, the taskforce suggested creating a permanent legislative or state body to suggest regular updates to the law.
The task force also proposed barring hospitals and nursing homes from recommending a specific guardian when they file for a guardianship, including consideration of powers of attorney and advanced directives previously signed by a ward when a guardianship is set up, and upgrading training and education for everyone who is involved in the guardianship process.
Reference: Florida Bar (March 14, 2022) “Bill Creates a Statewide Guardianship Database”