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New bill aims to prevent guardianship abuses

It's a terrifying scenario. First, the court appoints a legal guardian over your mother or father, or a beloved aunt or uncle. Then, the guardian moves your relative out of state, limits who is allowed to see him or her, bleeds any bank accounts dry, and neglects the very person he or she is supposed to be protecting.

When relatives complain to the police, they're sent to the very court that set the guardianship in place from the start. The court doesn't require much in the way of accountability and the relatives can't even get near their loved one to find out if he or she is being cared for or not.

And it's happening over and over again, all over the United States.

In some cases, those victims suddenly stripped of their autonomy and declared wards of the state aren't even incapable of making their own decisions -- they're just physically incapable of the fight it would take to retain their legal independence and the person who steps forward to be their "angel of mercy" as a volunteer guardian knows it.

That volunteer guardian also knows that he or she can charge the ward's estate with impunity for things like opening mail for $150 per hour or arranging family visits for the bargain-basement price of $1,000 per hour.

Abuses are, not surprisingly, common. As a result, the organization called Americans Against Probate Guardianship was founded to stop these assaults for profit on the elderly -- and at least 400 cases of abuse have been identified. The agency says that's just the tip of the iceberg where the abuses are concerned.

As a result, the organization has put legislation forward that would require the Department of Justice (DOJ) to both investigate and prosecute these acts like the crimes they really are. The bill already passed the House and the Senate and is expected to be signed into law.

If you believe that an elderly relative is being abused by his or her guardian, reach out to a probate and estate attorney as soon as possible.

Source: The Root, "Is the Adult Guardianship and Probate Court System Being Used to Exploit Elderly People for Profit?," Monique Judge, Oct. 10, 2017

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