There is, as the saying goes, a special place in hell for the person who made this new law necessary.
It's called "Ronnie's Law," after former Audubon resident Ronnie Mich, who is autistic. In 2003, Mich was the beneficiary of $1.2 million estate left to him by his father. But the executor of the will stole the money - and Ronnie Mich's home had to be sold to pay debts.
The developmentally disabled face difficult enough lives. The fact that they also run the risk of someone stealing an inheritance is shocking and disturbing ... but, we suppose, not particularly surprising given human nature. So the additional safeguards in Ronnie's Law are welcome.
The measure, which was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, addresses situations where a developmentally disabled person who does not have a legal guardian is named as a beneficiary of an estate. Under such circumstances, the executor of the estate will be required to file a bond, an initial inventory and a final accounting with the Superior Court to ensure the estate is properly distributed. The court will determine the amount and conditions of the bond.
In the event the estate is a drawn-out affair, the executor will be required to provide an accounting every five years.
Under the new law, any executor of such an estate who does not post a bond and the required accounting can be replaced by the court. The law also requires that all of the estate information must be provided to the state Public Advocate, who will have the authority to intervene on behalf of disabled beneficiaries.
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Stealing From the Disabled/Law Adds Protection