A guardianship is a legal arrangement under which a person (the guardian) has the legal right and duty to care for another (the ward) and his or her property. A guardian of the person makes decisions and takes action regarding the personal care of the ward. A guardian of the property manages the property and assets of the ward. A guardian must be represented by an attorney.
A guardianship is established when a person is unable to legally act on his/her own behalf. This may be due to minority, (he or she is not of age), or due to mental and/or physical incapacity. A competent adult may also petition the court to appoint a voluntary guardian for himself or herself.
A guardianship must be established for the property of a minor child when an amount of over $50,000 is to be paid to the minor. The court may also appoint a guardian before approving a settlement for a claim over $15,000. This may occur through inheritance or through a settlement of legal action. Guardianship of the person of a minor child may need to be established if both natural parents are deceased, incapacitated, or unavailable.
A guardianship for an alleged incapacitated person is initiated by filing a petition to determine capacity and a petition to appoint a guardian with the Clerk’s Probate Department. The proposed guardian must be represented by an attorney.
The alleged incapacitated person ("the person") and next of kin will be served with a notice and a copy of the court order appointing an examining committee and setting a hearing. An attorney will be appointed to represent the person at the hearing. Each member of the examining committee submits his or her report to the court after examining the person. At the hearing, the court will make a determination regarding the capacity of the -person, and if necessary, appoint a guardian.
A person may voluntarily petition the court for the appointment of a guardian for his or her property when, though mentally competent, he or she is incapable of the care, custody, and management of his estate by reason of age or physical infirmity. A certificate of a licensed physician is required, stating that he or she has examined the person and that the person is competent to understand the nature of the guardianship and his delegation of authority.
Report Guardianship Fraud
Fraud or waste of a ward's finances or guardianship assets can be reported to the Clerk's Department of Inspector General. View our Inspector General page for additional information.
This fact sheet clarifies how the Clerk’s office will handle filings and fees for Emergency Temporary Guardians (ETG), in accordance with Chapter 744, Florida Statutes (F.S.).
|Verified Inventory of ETG||At date of issuance of letters of ETG||Within 30 days after expiration of ETG||ETG is appointed after determination of incapacity but prior to appointment of guardian; ETG may be required to post bond||744.3031(8)(b)||$85 if assets >$25,000, otherwise no fee*|
|Report of ETG of Person||Within 30 days after expiration of ETG||If ETG becomes successor guardian of person, this report must satisfy the requirements of the initial report of guardian of person (F.S. 744.362)||744.3031(8)(c)||$0|
|Final Accounting of ETG||From date of verified inventory above to expiration of ETG (i.e. 90 days after appointment unless extended, or upon appointment of successor guardian)||Within 30 days after expiration of ETG||If ETG becomes successor guardian of property, report must satisfy requirements of initial report of guardian of property (F.S. 744.362). Report serves as verified inventory of successor & inventory fee is not charged||744.3031(8)(b)|
See Audit Fee Schedule below
|Verified Inventory of Successor Guardian|
At date of issuance of letters of guardian. If the ETG's appointment has expired before this date, then as of end of ETG
|60 days after letters signed||See above; however, if separate inventory is filed, a fee is charged||744.365|
See Audit Fee Schedule below
|Initial or Annual Plan of Successor Guardian||60 days after letters signed (initial); 90 days after the last day of anniversary month (annual)|
744.367(1) (annually thereafter)
|Annual Accounting of Successor Guardian||Within 1 year from date of verified inventory of successor guardian, or anniversary of that date||1st day of the 4th month after fiscal year end||1st accounting period must end within 1 year after end of the month the letters of guardianship issued|
See Fee Schedule below
Type of Report Filed
|Verified Inventory, assets <$25,000*||$0||744.365(6)(b)||(1)|
|Verified Inventory, assets >$25,000*||$85||744.365(6)(a)||(2)|
|Annual Accounting, assets <=$25,000||$20||744.3678(4)(a)||(2)|
|Annual Accounting, assets >$25,000 to $100,000||$85||744.3678(4)(b)||(2)|
|Annual Accounting, assets >$100,000 to $500,000||$170||744.3678(4)(c)||(2)|
|Annual Accounting, assets >$500,000||$250||744.3678(4)(d)||(2)|
Note (1): Any guardian unable to pay the auditing fee may petition the court for waiver of the fee. The court may waive the fee after it has reviewed the documentation filed by the guardian in support of the waiver. Florida Statute F.S.744.365(6)(b)
Note (2): Upon petition by the guardian, the court may waive the auditing fee upon a showing of insufficient funds in the ward’s estate. Any guardian unable to pay the auditing fee may petition the court for a waiver of the fee. The court may waive the fee after it has reviewed the documentation filed by the guardian in support of the waiver. Florida Statue F.S.744.3678(4)(d)
Electronic Fingerprint Instructions
Electronic fingerprints and a background check are required for approval of appointment as a guardian over a ward’s person and/or property. Follow these steps to obtain the needed items.
Pursuant to 744.3135, Florida Statute, the following is required to be considered for appointment as a professional or non-professional guardian. (Effective July 1, 2014, for non-professionals).
- You must be fingerprinted by an approved provider.
- The electronic fingerprints are remitted to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to obtain a criminal records check.
- You are responsible for payment of all fees.
- The results will be returned to the Clerk’s office where the information is held in a secure area and not subject to public record disclosure.
- Please allow two weeks after fingerprinting for the results to be filed.
The Office of Public & Professional Guardians (OPPG) provides instructions and their provider.
Please contact the agency of your choice for their location, hours of service, and fees. Please provide the agency with the ORI number, FL053114z for the results to be remitted to the Clerk's office.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement provides a list of approved providers.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office also provides services at the following locations:
Main Sheriff’s Office
1891 Jim Keene Blvd, Winter Haven, FL 33880
(Behind County Utilities Off Hwy 540/Winter Lake Rd)
1045 Wedgewood Estates Blvd, Lakeland, FL 33809
(Next To The Best Buy Plaza Across From The Lakeland Mall)
1100 Dunson Rd, Davenport, FL 33896
(North Of The Cracker Barrel)
4011 Sgt. Mary Campbell Way, Lake Wales, FL 33859
(Behind the Walgreens Across From the Lake Wales Mall)
4120 U.S. Hwy 98 S, Lakeland, FL 33812
(In Front of Polk State College)
Professional and Non-Professional Guardian
Applicant Waiver Agreement and Statement for Criminal History Record Checks
The petitioner in filing as a Professional or Non-Professional Guardian is required to complete the Applicant Waiver Agreement and Statement prior to being fingerprinted. Please submit the original waiver to the Probate department in person or by mail at PO Box 9000/Drawer CC-4, Bartow, Florida 33831. A copy will not be accepted.
Please input one of these two options that apply to you as the "Name of Non-Criminal Justice Agency":
- Clerk R-Polk County Clerk of Court-Professional Guardian.
- Clerk-Polk County Clerk of Court-Non-Professional.
If you have questions, please call the Clerk Probate department at 863-534-4494.