The traditional and expected role of the court-appointed guardian is to protect and look out for the best interest of the individual for whom they have been assigned to care. Sadly, there are a growing number of cases where professional guardians, those who are not related to their wards, are taking advantage of their elderly wards, decimating estates and causing unnecessary hardship.
Guardianship is a fairly straightforward and basic function. A person who is not able to handle her or his own affairs, for any number of reasons, is assigned a guardian by the court, who is to act on their behalf for financial, medical and care-taking purposes. The guardian is charged with putting the interest of their ward first, and the guardian is entrusted with a great deal of responsibility.
However, as the Wall Street Journal reports in "Abuses Plague Guardianship Systems across the Country," the financial abuse of elderly people by guardians is rampant throughout the United States.
Court appointed guardians with no family relationship to the elderly wards too often act in their own interests and deplete the wealth of the wards.
This problem is mostly avoidable through estate planning. Part of a good estate plan is planning for end of life issues and getting a general durable power of attorney and a health care power of attorney. With those two documents, you can appoint someone you know and trust to look after your financial and medical affairs in case you are ever not competent to do so. Doing that can often make the appointment of a guardian unnecessary.
Even if a guardian is necessary, a court will likely appoint the person you have already designated as trustworthy whenever possible.
Do not fall victim to an abusive guardian.
Schedule an appointment with an estate planning attorney and get the documentation that you need to make your own decisions about who should look after your affairs if you are not able to do so. Please visit our website to learn more!
Reference: Wall Street Journal (October 30, 2015) "Abuses Plague Guardianship Systems Across the Country"