Nov 5, 2015

Florida to establish office to more closely monitor court-appointed guardians

In a post earlier this year I told you about why it is important to establish plans to avoid becoming the subject of court-ordered guardianship. Vulnerable seniors without such planning can too easily get swept up in the guardianship system, lose control over their money and just about every other aspect of their lives. If this isn't bad enough, investigative reports have revealed lax oversight in our state's public guardianship system, which too often exposes elderly wards to financial and other types of abuse by predatory "professional" guardians. 

To address these problems, a Florida law passed earlier this year sought to put more safeguards into the guardianship system, made it easier for ward's rights to be restored, and introduced additional controls on who may serve as guardian and how guardians are compensated.

Now, another new bill seeks to further tighten oversight. Among other measures, Florida Senate Bill 232 would create an  Office of Public and Professional Guardians to certify and monitor court-appointed guardians, and establish a system more responsive to complaints. You can read the text of the proposed bill here. The legislature is expected to take up the matter in 2016.

Not surprisingly, there are those who feel that the proposed legislation falls far short of what is needed. Chief among its critics is the organization Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship, which points out that the legislation effectively permits the fox to watch the hen house. Dr. Sam Sugar writes:

"Senate Bill 232 creates an entirely new bureaucracy in the Dept. of Elderly Affairs which is intended to administer administrative discipline with a carrot and stick approach. However the stick is more like a twig in that the worst punishment an abusive criminal Guardian can get from this proposed department is loss of certification. This is not an adequate deterrent when billions of dollars are at stake, when there’s absolutely no likelihood of crimes against the elderly leading to jail time and when the system is rigged from top to bottom with get out of “jail free cards” for the criminal guardians and every other stakeholder in the abusive system of probate guardianship."

You can read the full text of AAAPG's response to the new legislation here. We'll keep our readers posted on developments on this important topic, which has the potential to affect so many Florida citizens. 

For a Wall Street Journal article on the growing problem of guardianship abuse, click here.

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