Now 93, Ernestine Franks has lived in Escambia County all of her life. She and her late husband, Charles, both worked at the Pensacola Naval Air Station — she was in cost accounting and he was a metalsmith. They saved their money and invested it wisely and put their children through the best schools to ensure they would get the best education. Ernestine and Charles’ life was devoted to their boys and always went the extra mile for them.
But that guardianship has cost his mother $1,000 per day since June 2012.
“It is over $1 million that my mom has spent,” her son Douglas Franks said. “We’re trying to bring awareness so people know what’s going on and how this is a lucrative cottage industry.”
Franks spoke in favor of a measure Thursday in Tallahassee as a Senate panel on Thursday unanimously approved a bill aimed at protecting Florida seniors from predatory “professional guardians,” described by one lawmaker as “cockroaches.”
The bill (SB 1226), filed by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, would expand the Statewide Public Guardianship Office at the Department of Elder Affairs, with an eye to tightening oversight of people who assume control of a senior citizens’ finances.
A recent series by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune found that while Florida has an efficient system of identifying and caring for fragile elders, “tapping their assets is a growth business.” In 2003, there were 23 registered professional guardians on Florida. Today, the number has grown to more than 440.
“Those little cracks in the law are allowing cockroaches to crawl through and take advantage of people who are elderly,” Detert told the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. “Let’s face it. The elderly are today’s invisible people, who are not given much credence when they complain.”
The bill would charge the Department of Elder Affairs with certifying, overseeing and —- if necessary — investigating and disciplining professional guardians who abuse their trust. It would also create a registry of professional guardians in each judicial circuit.
Currently, Detert said, the Department of Elder Affairs is responsible for public guardians, who are assigned to indigent seniors, but there is little to stop unscrupulous “professional guardians” from charging exorbitant rates for services they provide and running through their wards’ assets.
“When you are turning somebody’s entire life over to a guardian, they have access to every asset that you have, and your own family is blocked from participating,” Detert said.
Detert said the courts are so overwhelmed with foreclosures and other backlogged cases that they aren’t able to investigate guardianship expenditures that are unreasonably large.
Her proposal comes as several other lawmakers also are offering measures aimed at curbing abusive guardianships.
Full Article & Source:
Escambia Senior Out $1 Million; Bill Seeks To Stop Predatory ‘Cockroaches’