first effort at reform last legislative session, including applying criminal penalties to guardians found guilty of abuse. Advocates say legislative reform, though, means nothing if judges are complicit in draining the life savings of seniors in guardianships.
Judges like Colin are the main line of defense against guardianship abuse.
Colin, 66, is one of a handful of judges in Palm Beach County Circuit Court who oversee guardians for incapacitated adults. When a senior is found to be incapacitated, they can lose all legal rights to make decisions for themselves. So these judges approve expenditures including fees for the guardian and the guardian’s attorney — again all coming from the senior’s money.
“The problems all arise from the judges and the lawyers and the greed-driven abusive guardians they enable,” said Dr. Sam Sugar, co-founder of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship, which spearheaded the Florida legislation.
“Judges are extremely insulated. They are legal gods who live in a court bubble in which they only believe what their friendly guardians tell them. I mean how do you convince a god that he or she is wrong? It’s a near incestuous fraternity.”
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Guardianships: A Broken Trust: How Do You Convince a God He's Wrong?