Substituted Judgment and Best Interest Standards in Florida Guardianship

Guardianship in Florida carries the weighty responsibility of making decisions on behalf of another individual, often in sensitive and personal areas of life. At the heart of this responsibility lie two primary standards that guide a guardian’s decisions: the substituted judgment standard and the best interest standard. Understanding and applying these principles correctly is crucial for guardians as they seek to fulfill their duties in a manner that aligns with the ward’s needs and rights ensuring that they live their lives to the fullest with dignity and joy.

Substituted Judgment Standard

The substituted judgment standard is a foundational principle in Florida’s guardianship law. It requires a guardian to make decisions based on what they believe the ward would choose for themselves if they were able to make their own decisions. This approach involves a deep consideration of the ward’s personal values, preferences, and past life choices.

For instance, consider a guardian responsible for a ward who was an artist. Employing substituted judgment, the guardian might decide to consistently take the ward to the finest art galleries, reflecting an understanding of the ward’s background in fine arts and a respect for their professional and personal preferences. This example illustrates how substituted judgment centers around honoring the individuality and past choices of the ward. In Florida, this standard is favored because it upholds the autonomy and personal identity of the ward, ensuring that their life story and values continue to play a significant role in their present circumstances.

Best Interest Standard

The best interest standard, on the other hand, is applied in situations where the ward’s preferences are unknown, unclear, or where the ward has historically made harmful decisions. This standard requires the guardian to make decisions that are objectively in the best interests of the ward, particularly concerning their health and welfare.

For example, if a ward has a history of criminal behavior or substance abuse, a guardian using the best interest standard might make choices that differ from the ward’s previous decisions but are aimed at ensuring their safety and overall well-being. This approach is more paternalistic, focusing on the well-being of the ward rather than their potential preferences.

The Sliding Scale Approach

Florida’s guardianship laws adopt a sliding scale approach, recognizing that the choice between substituted judgment and best interest standards depends on various factors. These include the ward’s past and present decision-making ability, known preferences, and overall welfare. Guardians must carefully assess which standard to apply in each unique situation. In practice, this might mean predominantly using substituted judgment but shifting towards the best interest standard when necessary, especially if the ward’s preferences are harmful or unknown. This balanced approach allows for personalized guardianship, respecting the ward’s autonomy while ensuring their welfare.

Establishing Guardianship Well-Informed

Guardianship in Florida is a delicate balance of respecting the rights and dignity of the ward while making decisions that ensure their overall well-being. Understanding and appropriately applying the substituted judgment and best interest standards are key to serving the best interests of the ward. Doing so in a manner that respects their individuality and past life choices is not only beneficial to the ward, it can maintain a positive relationship between guardians and their respective wards.

If you potentially have guardianship responsibilities or have questions about applying these standards in Florida, Zamora Hillman & Villavicencio Attorneys at Law are here to assist you. Our team can provide the guidance and support you need to navigate these responsibilities effectively. Contact us today by calling (305) 285-0285 to schedule a consultation and ensure that your guardianship decisions are informed, respectful, and in the best interest of your ward.

The following two tabs change content below.

Zamora, Hillman & Villavicencio

Our firm deals with legal matters involving your loved ones, and our familial operation is prepared to give you caring and effective counsel during what might be a difficult or emotional time.

Latest posts by Zamora, Hillman & Villavicencio (see all)