Today, some possible solutions.
Here are some of their suggestions to cure an ailing system that can make inheritances disappear, fracture families and take away the elder person’s dignity and freedom.
• Give aggrieved family members a meaningful forum to air their complaints – a forum that can hold accountable the paid professionals in the guardianship industry.
• Family members should be involved, not shut out of the ward’s life. Instead of labeling family members as “in conflict” or “upsetting” to the elder and curbing their visits, guardians and conservators should include them in the elder’s everyday decisions. Rep. Conrad James, R-Albuquerque, says the process of “isolating the senior is the first step of abuse in these cases.”
• Elevate the evidentiary requirement for an elder to be declared incapacitated and make sure all family members are heard. Require the elderly person to actually appear in court and be questioned by the judge unless it is physically impossible.
• Require specific training and issue state licenses for guardians and conservators. New Mexico has more licensing requirements on the books for hairdressers and landscapers – because there are none for guardians and conservators. If a court appointee is going to manage cases with complex medical or financial issues, they should show they are qualified in those fields.
• The Legislature needs to recognize the problem and approve additional court funding. Judges need sufficient resources to monitor the growing number of guardianship cases. As described in the Journal series, the program currently runs on the “honor system” with little or no auditing or oversight of how appointees spend the ward’s money. ...
Unlike those of most states, New Mexico’s guardianship system is steeped in secrecy. Courts here routinely sequester proceedings, citing vaguely written sections of the state’s Uniform Probate Code, and order all participants to remain mum about the case to protect the privacy of the elder person. Critics say this lack of transparency quashes legitimate concerns and allows judges and attorneys to ignore both family members and important legal documents prepared by the elder, such as wills, estate plans and powers of attorney.
One Albuquerque lawyer who is representing a family in a guardianship drove the point home.
“There are bad things happening. Even if they’re legal, they are bad things,” he said. “The societal cost of this secrecy is too damn high.”
Full Article & Source:
Fixing a well-meaning but flawed guardian system
Who Guards the Guardians?