About the Foundation for Indigent Guardianship Inc. (FIG)

The Foundation for Indigent Guardianship, Inc., (known as FIG), is a non-profit organization created for the sole purpose of supporting the Office of Public and Professional Guardians (OPPG) within Florida’s Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA).

In 2006, the Legislature authorized DOEA to establish a direct-support organization, and FIG began to serve in this capacity that same year.  FIG is incorporated under Chapter 617, Florida Statutes, and recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization. As a direct-support organization, FIG is statutorily authorized to raise funds by requesting and receiving grants, as well as by receiving charitable gifts, bequests of moneys, securities, or other property. The heart of FIG’s fundraising has been the Florida Public Guardianship Pooled Special Needs Trust (FPGPSNT).

The trust was created to enable eligible individuals to set aside their assets or income for enhanced independence, comfort, and dignity while remaining eligible for benefits from Medicaid, SSI, and other public programs during their lifetime. FPGPSNT is the only pooled special-needs trust that specifically designates surplus property to go to benefit public guardianship in Florida. Beneficiaries can place assets in the FPGPSNT via a joinder agreement. If there are remainder funds, after any potential Medicare reimbursement, the remainder funds go to support the public guardian program from the Florida county from where the joinder agreement originated.

FIG receives no federal or state government money and is authorized by state law to raise funds by requesting and receiving grants, as well as by receiving charitable gifts, including bequests of money, securities, or other property.

As of Dec. 31, 2020, FIG had awarded $2.1 million from the surplus property from the FPGPSNT directly to Florida’s public guardianship programs. This funding from FIG allowed OPPG to expand public guardian services statewide. This in turn led the Legislature to appropriate additional statewide funding for public guardianship.

What powers FIG

The heart of FIG’s fundraising is the Florida Public Guardianship Pooled Special Needs Trust (FPGPSNT). The FPGPSNT was created to enable eligible individuals, primarily seniors and people with disabilities, to set aside their assets and/or income and live out the rest of their lives with dignity and in comfort while maintaining their eligibility for programs such as Medicaid and Social Security. The FPGPSNT supports Florida’s public guardianship programs by receiving any money left in its clients’ accounts after they die and giving it to Florida’s public guardian programs to support and enhance their services.

FIG is the founding trustee of the trust and has contracted with Advocates & Guardians for the Elderly & Disabled Inc. (AGED) as the trust’s administrative trustee.

FIG’s many other services

Since 2017, FIG has, in conjunction with AGED, coordinated and sponsored complimentary educational programs for public guardian program staff in convenient locations to minimize their need to travel. This helped enable them to obtain continuing education units, which are a Florida requirement for public and professional guardians.

At no cost to FIG, representatives of Advocates & Guardians for the Elderly & Disabled (AGED), the entity that manages the Pooled Special Needs Trust, have been the subject-matter experts presenting FIG’s educational programs. As of early 2020, programs had been presented in Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Tallahassee,  Sarasota and Miami. COVID-19 caused further presentations to be postponed, but they will resume when possible.

FIG’s educational topics are designed to help public guardians better understand and navigate government benefits and Pooled Special Needs Trusts to serve their clients the best way possible. Topics include Social Security Disability Income and Medicare, Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid, Medicaid Programs for Persons With Disabilities, covering eligibility requirements and an overview and the availability of services. Also presented are programs on how pooled special needs trusts work, protecting eligibility, and when they should be established, how Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts work with a pooled special needs trust and when they can be used.

Another service FIG established is the ability for public guardians to request emergency funding. An example of an emergency was when a public guardian office failed to receive state funding for one year. In that case, FIG was able to provide the office’s funding for that fiscal year until the Legislature could meet again and approve their continued funding.  If FIG had not stepped in to help this office, it would have had to close, leaving clients with no one to care for them in the interim.

Since 2015, FIG has been sponsoring an annual reception for all public guardians and their staffs during the Florida State Guardianship Association’s conference. Also invited are Office of Public and Professional Guardians staff  and Department of Elder Affairs leadership. Each program can nominate outstanding staff members for recognition at the reception. Pro bono attorneys also are honored for their contribution to public guardianship.

Meet Our Board

Image of Edward O’Sheehan

Chair

Ed O’Sheehan

Fort Lauderdale attorney Edward O’Sheehan is a partner in the Fort Lauderdale office of Shutts & Bowen LLP, where he is a member of the Business Litigation Practice Group and Chair of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee. 

Vice Chair

Monica Gent

A nurse for 40 years, Registered Professional Guardian Monica Gent is Health Care Quality and Management certified, a Fellow of the American Board of Quality Assurance and Utilization Review Physicians and a Certified Dementia Practitioner.

Image of Melinda Coulter

Treasurer

Melinda Coulter

A longtime guardianship advocate, Melinda Coulter retired from the central office of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities after 12 years as Client Legal Rights Champion and statewide coordinator of provider training. 

Headshot of Karen Murillo

Secretary

Karen Murillo

Tallahassee attorney and lobbyist Karen Murillo is Associate State Director of Advocacy for AARP Florida. She also co-chairs the Abuse, Neglect & Exploitation Committee of the Florida Bar’s Elder Law Section.

Board Member

Gwendolyn J. Spencer

Attorney Gwendolyn J. Spencer has a private practice. She formerly taught in Florida A&M University’s Department of Social Work and served as Director of its Master’s in Social Work Program. She is a member of the Florida Bar’s Elder Law and the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law sections and the Estate Planning Committee.

Headshot of attorney Ya'Sheaka C. Williams

Board Member

Ya’Sheaka C. Williams

Ya’Sheaka C. Williams is a partner in the Tampa office of Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A. specializing in representing employers and insurance carriers in workers’ compensation cases.

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