“I’ve been calling this the first and only guardianship victim summit,” Sam Sugar, the Aventura physician who convened them said. “But after today, we’re no longer victims. The next time we get together, we will be guardianship advocates.”
Sugar, who launched a nonprofit organization called Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship in response to his mother-in-law’s case, noted that April 15 marked the fifth anniversary of his first contact with the system. His mother-in-law has died, he said, but the costly legal fight over her assets continues.
“Five years ago, my disaster began when an attorney went in front of a judge and lied,” he said. “Nobody ever had to prove them; nobody had a hearing about them — and yet those 30 seconds of lies have created five years of hell for my family.”
The guardianship system is designed to protect frail and incapacitated elders from both financial and physical abuse, and Florida’s statute is considered one of the best in the nation.
But the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s “The Kindness of Strangers: Inside Elder Guardianship in Florida” series last December showed how easily an elder’s rights can be taken away and given to somebody else, for life, if the court finds this step in the best interest of someone lacking capacity to make decisions.
Since the series appeared, a trio of reform bills were introduced in the Legislature, with many of the group gathered here testifying in their support. (Continue reading)
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Families gather to reform state's adult guardian system