Elder Laws Florida: A Comprehensive Overview
Elder laws in Florida cover a wide range of matters impacting the state’s senior citizens, including elder abuse, guardianships, powers of attorney, long-term care planning, and more.
The Basics of Elder Laws in Florida
Aging is an inevitable part of life, and with this change comes a range of emerging needs. Fortunately, legislatures have enacted a variety of elder laws to protect the rights of Florida’s seniors.
Elders, disabled adults, and their families can hire an elder law attorney who will help them make solid plans for their future. The experienced elder law attorneys at Lehn Law, P.A. provide reliable legal advice on long-term care planning, estate planning, guardianships and conservatorships, health care, finances, funds, income, retirement taxes, and disability.
As trusted FL elder law attorneys, we are committed to upholding the rights available to seniors and their loved ones under Florida’s elder laws. Below are other ways elder law attorneys can help you and your loved ones protect your resources and avoid exploitation. An attorney can help you:
- Draft power of attorney.
- Draft trusts and wills.
- Locate and secure all your accounts and properties.
- Set up conservatorships and guardianships.
- Protect your resources and income.
- File a nursing home abuse claim.
- Plan your estate.
- Secure proper medicare plans and home care arrangements.
In short, Florida’s elder laws, in conjunction with the services of an elder law attorney, simplify the lives of senior citizens and cushion them against unpredictable hardships.
Quick Facts about Florida Elder Abuse Laws
Most people think that elder abuse laws cover only abuses that are physical and emotional. However, Florida elder law goes beyond physical and emotional abuses and includes financial exploitation, neglect, and abandonment as well.
Common Forms of Abuse Against an Elderly Person
Listed below are the major categories of elder abuse and exploitation in Florida.
Physical elder abuse—This includes all intentional applications of force against an elderly person resulting in physical harm, pain, or death. Signs of physical abuse include burns, sprains, bruises, fractured bones, dislocated joints, sudden social withdrawal, and tooth loss.
Sexual Elder Abuse—This includes any form of sexual exploitation of an elder without their consent. The elders who are most vulnerable to sexual exploitation are those who suffer from cognitive disabilities such as dementia.
Emotional and Psychological Elder Abuses—This term describes any act committed intentionally to inflict mental pain and suffering on old persons. Emotional and psychological abuses can manifest in many forms. Some examples of emotional abuse are insults, isolation, threats, and deprivation. Emotional and psychological abuses can negatively affect old persons resulting in depression, low self-esteem, and mood swings.
Financial Elder Abuse—This term is used to describe the financial exploitation of elders. It is all too common for people to obtain and use an old person’s financial resources, estate, or property illegally. Perpetrators of this abuse can be relatives, friends, or strangers.
Elder Neglect—This occurs when someone entrusted with taking care of the elderly fails to provide that service, exposing the senior citizen to danger. Some examples of elder neglect include not providing health care, nursing home care, clothing, and basic nutrition to an elder.
Elder Abandonment—Many old persons, particularly those with disabilities, need constant attention and care. Anyone who intentionally deserts an elderly person is guilty of elder abandonment. Elder abandonment is a serious offense because of the danger it poses to its victims. In most cases, abandoned elders and disabled adults look malnourished, unkempt, and frail.
Florida Elder Abuse Reporting Laws
The Florida elder abuse reporting laws make it mandatory for any witnesses to report elder abuse. Anyone who knows or suspects that a vulnerable adult has been or is being abused, neglected, or under exploitation must immediately report such knowledge or suspicion to the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873.
Anyone making a report in Florida will be asked to provide the following information:
- Name, age, race, sex, physical description, phone number, and location of each victim suffering abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
- Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the victim’s family members.
- Name, address, and telephone number of each alleged perpetrator.
- Name, address, and telephone number of the caregiver of the victim, if different from the alleged perpetrator.
- Name, address, and telephone number of the person making the call and reporting the alleged abuses, neglect, or exploitation.
- Description of the physical or psychological injuries sustained.
- Any actions taken by the reporter, such as notification of the police.
- Any other information available to the reporting person (e.g. the date or dates), which may establish the cause of abuse, neglect, or exploitation that occurred or is occurring.
On receipt of the elder abuse or exploitation report, the appropriate department will begin an investigation. Florida statutes mandate the investigator to report any death of an elder because of abuse or exploitation to a medical examiner or law enforcement agency.
Elder Financial Abuse – Florida Laws
Many elders find themselves in a position where they cannot effectively manage their income, finances, and funds without the help of another party. Unfortunately, this can leave them vulnerable to fraud and exploitation.
In many situations, it is difficult to discover the financial exploitation of an elder. Elders can protect themselves and their family members from financial exploitation by exercising vigilance. It is important to recognize the signs of the crime early enough.
If you suspect that someone is abusing the income, finances, or estate of an elderly loved one in Florida, contact the Department of Elder Affairs or an experienced lawyer for legal advice.
Penalties for Violation of Florida Elder Laws
There are a number of penalties that may apply to a person who acts in violation of Florida elder laws, particularly those involving elder abuse.
Family members may sue anyone involved in the exploitation of a senior citizen. In a criminal case, by jury trial, jurors may draw inferences of exploitation upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The verdict will determine the penalty to be given for the violation of Florida elder laws.
Listed below are examples of penalties that can be given for the violation of Florida elder laws:
- Returning stolen money or assets.
- Payment of actual damages, punitive damages, and the fees of the elder law attorney.
- Jail time and fines.
Understanding Civil Cases for Violation of Florida Elder Law
Cases of elder abuse or exploitation in Florida often involve both a criminal case, filed by the state, and a civil case, which may be filed by the victim or their loved ones.
Although some of the above penalties apply only to criminal cases, a defining feature of a civil case is the payment of damages to the victim. If your elderly loved one has been the target of elder abuse, particularly nursing home abuse, the elder law attorneys at Lehn Law, P.A. can help your loved one receive compensation for their injuries and fight for their rights to fair and humane treatment.
FAQs about Elder Laws in Florida
The following are some of the common questions people ask concerning elder laws in Florida.
Question: How is an elder defined in Florida?
Answer: Under Florida law, elders are those 60 years or older who are “suffering from the infirmities of aging.”
Question: Can a power of attorney be revoked because the recipient abused it?
Answer: Yes. This can be done by preparing and serving a revocation notice stating why it should be canceled. Those involved in caring for elderly people must carry out their duty professionally. Lawyers experienced in elder law are in the best position to advise you on how to proceed with the revocation.
Question: How do I apply for a conservatorship for my elderly loved one?
Answer: Those who want to apply for a conservatorship for their elderly loved ones will need to file a petition with the appropriate court. The best way to initiate this process is to consult an elder law attorney.
Question: What is the difference between a power of attorney and guardianship?
Answer: Both powers of attorney and guardianships are legal instruments that empower a person to act on behalf of another. The major difference is that guardianship is appointed by the court while a power of attorney is chosen by the elderly person prior to their incapacitation. To learn more about what distinguishes guardianship from a power of attorney, consult an experienced elder law attorney.
Florida Elder Care Laws Applying to Aged and Disabled Adults
Florida elder law recognizes the rights of aged and disabled adults who experience any form of incapacity. A noteworthy example of this is the creation of the Department of Elder Affairs.
The elder law mandates the department to establish minimum standards and procedures for the provision of home care for the elderly. Under Florida elder care laws, anyone approved to provide care, goods, resources, or services for the elderly shall be entitled to subsidy payments.
Some of the other duties of the Department of Elder Affairs under the elder law include:
- To administer human services and long-term care programs to the elderly.
- To ensure that the elderly in Florida receive the best services possible.
- To prepare and submit a master plan for policies and programs related to aging in Florida.
- To serve as a repository and means for the dissemination of information to all the elderly in Florida.
- To recommend guidelines for state agencies that provide services for the aging.
- To call upon agencies of the Florida state government for help needed in the discharge of its duties.
The cost of placing an elder in a care home in Florida is expensive. Some studies put the average cost at around $10,000 per month. In response to this, the Department of Elder Affairs provides long-term care and services for older adults and disabled persons. The long-term care and support program will place qualified individuals in nursing homes through Medicaid.
Call us for a free consultation if you need help with Medicaid planning. We can help you figure out which health care plans will benefit you the most and create a detailed plan to help you organize your assets to qualify for them.