Home
In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sept. 19, 2006 / 26 Elul, 5766

Who protects them from their guardians?

By Jan L. Warner & Jan Collins


Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | A few weeks ago, we wrote about the growing problem of abuse of our senior citizens, usually by adult children and spouses. In response, we heard from a number of readers telling us that we had ignored the increasingly important topic of abuse of seniors by their court-appointed guardians. Usually, this abuse is financial, occurring when unscrupulous guardians empty or greatly diminish seniors' bank accounts, largely because there is little oversight of court-appointed fiduciaries once they have been appointed.


After doing more research on this topic, we agree that this type of abuse appears to be a growing problem, which will undoubtedly become an even larger issue as the baby boomers (the oldest are now 60) continue to age.


First, the definitions. Guardianship is a legal process designed to help appoint fiduciaries for people who can no longer make or communicate sound decisions about their person (health care) in some states, and both their person and property in others. Guardians, says writer Barry Yeoman in AARP, The Magazine, "can be attorneys, relatives or friends, government employees, private social workers, money managers, community volunteers, or employees of social-service organizations. They might be volunteers or they might charge a fee.


But according to a new AARP survey, in about half of responding jurisdictions (40 percent), no one is assigned by the courts to visit the vulnerable individuals under guardianship protection, "leaving many Americans open to physical and financial abuse."


Furthermore, according to the survey, most courts make minimal use of computer and other technology to track adult guardianship filings and dispositions. The reason: state and county governments provide insufficient funding for appropriate monitoring. (The survey, "Guardianship Monitoring: A National Survey of Court Practices," was conducted by AARP's Public Policy Institute with the help of the American Bar Association, and is the first examination of guardianship oversight practices in 15 years.)


The survey also found that while 74 percent of the courts require annual reports on the ward's personal status, more than one-third of the surveyed respondents admitted that no one verifies the information contained in the reports.


Stories about abuse by guardians are surfacing all across the country. Money Magazine referred to it as "the gulag of guardianship" and called it a "national disgrace." In November 2005, the Los Angeles Times published a four-part series on guardianship abuses.


Said the Times report: "Professional conservators wield enormous power over people deemed too infirm to look after themselves. They choose their doctors, control their bank accounts and decide where they will live - even who can visit them. Probate courts, which appoint conservators, are supposed to monitor their conduct, scrutinize their financial reports and fine or remove those who misuse their authority. Yet the courts have failed dismally in this vital role."


BUY THE BOOK

Click HERE to purchase it at a discount. (Sales help fund JWR.).


Robin Westmiller of Thousand Oaks, California, couldn't agree more. In her new book, "Blood Tastes Lousy With Scotch" (Star, 2006), she recounts the true events of a Florida family services organization — appointed legal guardian of her elderly father at the behest of a cousin — which legally drained her father's accounts of nearly $250,000 before Westmiller was able to have her father once again declared mentally competent.


Westmiller has formed an organization — the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA) — the Web site for which can be found at http://stopguardianabuse.org. In a recent interview with NextSteps, Westmiller, who is currently attending law school, said she founded her group in the aftermath of the 18-month-long "nightmare" that occurred with her own father's guardianship. "It's an organization I wish I had had when I was going through all this with my Dad," she said.


NASGA is a self-help membership organization that advises people in a similar situation what they can do. "We give information, not legal advice," Westmiller says. "But we tell people what (documents) they need to accumulate" for their own attorneys.


Westmiller and other organizations say the guardianship abuse crisis is "always about the money." A professional guardian or heir can get control of seniors' money "by alleging that you can no longer manage your affairs," says a group called Justice for Florida Seniors, which can be located at (www.justiceforfloridaseniors.org).


But critics also put the blame squarely on probate and surrogate court judges who appoint guardians — some of whom may turn out to be incompetent and/or dishonest — and then fail to provide judicial oversight. "Some judges," Westmiller says, "never even meet the victims (elders) who they strip of life, liberty and property."


Westmiller and others call for better education of probate judges on guardianship issues, better judicial oversight and severe penalties for the dishonest guardians.


Some states, such as New Jersey and Wisconsin, have recently passed legislation to improve the guardianship process, including stronger monitoring, and the California legislature is considering similar measures, according to the AARP. But it would seem like a good idea for the federal government to take the lead with model legislation and funding for research.


The first line of defense against this insidious problem is to plan in advance with durable powers of attorney and trusts through which trusted fiduciaries can follow your direction should you become incapacitated. For those who have not planned or have planned poorly, contact your national and local lawmakers about introducing and passing stricter legislation, because if we live long enough, eventually we, too, may well be vulnerable to guardianship abuse.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JAN L. WARNER received his A.B. and J.D. degrees from the University of South Carolina and earned a Master of Legal Letters (L.L.M.) in Taxation from the Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a frequent lecturer at legal education and public information programs throughout the United States. His articles have been published in national and state legal publications. Jan Collins began co-authoring Flying SoloŽ in 1989. She has more than 27 years of experience as a journalist, writer, and editor. To comment or ask a question, please click here.

Archives

© 2006, Jan Warner

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles