Friday, February 1, 2008

People in the Know

Guardianship and conservatorship abuse is apparently nothing new.

People in the know speak out about guardianship abuse and fraud

The following are some quotes about guardianship abuse and fraud from highly respected sources:

"This [guardianship] is an area ripe for fraud and where most fraud abuse has in fact occurred." — Karleen F. DeBlaker, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Pinellas County, Florida (4/2004)

Reports of guardians stealing from their wards' bank accounts and other wise abusing guardianship powers are surfacing with disturbing regularity. 'This problem is going to get bigger and bigger,' says E. Bentley Lipscomb, AARP's Florida state director and a former state secretary of elder affairs. — GUARDIANS DRAWING INCREASED SCRUTINY, AARP Bulletin

It is a system that in practice often serves lawyers over clients. Even as the court's lax oversight allows guardians to neglect their responsibilities, it also permits some lawyers to take unnecessary control of people's lives. — Washington Post, 2003

Judges and their favored professional conservators and guardians, expert witnesses and court investigators have unspoken agendas: money, power and control. When an elderly individual is brought into court and forced to prove his or her competence, we soon see that the system does not work. We have a system rife with court-sanctioned abuse of the elderly. Why? Judges override protections that have been put in place in the codes. It happens every day. Judges disregard durable powers of attorney — the single most important document each of us can create to determine our care should we become incapacitated. Judges ignore our lists of pre-selected surrogate decision-makers. The current system does not work. This reality is most apparent when a wealthy individual falls victim to these involuntary proceedings and his or her wealth becomes a ripe plum to be shared by the Judge’s favorites. — Diane G. Armstrong, Ph.D., excerpt of prepared statement before the U.S. Senate's Special Committee on Aging, February, 2003. Author of The Retirement Nightmare: How to Save Yourself from Your Heirs and Protectors: Involuntary Conservatorships and Guardianships

The denial of these rights is the consequence of a court determination that an individual is legally "incompetent" or "incapacitated" and the appointment by the court of a guardian to act as surrogate decision maker on the person's behalf. The real tragedy is that mounting evidence suggests that many of these individuals having been stripped of their right to self-determination are being poorly served, and even victimized and exploited by the very persons or agencies appointed to protect them and to make decisions on their behalf. — House of Representatives, Select Committee on Aging Report

...guardianship can divest an elderly person of all the rights and freedoms we consider important as citizens. — Chairman of the Senate Special Committee, Larry Craig

"Ironically, the imposition of guardianship without adequate protections and oversight may actually result in the loss of liberty and property for the very persons these arrangements are intended to protect. — Chairman of the Senate Special Committee, Larry Craig

“Instead of serving to protect the assets of incapacitated persons, the existing guardianship system presents the opportunity for unscrupulous guardians to loot the assets of their wards and enrich themselves with impunity.” — New York Grand Jury

Elderly people are routinely stripped of basic rights in court hearings. — Detroit Free Press
"Outside of execution, guardianship is the most radical remedy we have." — Elias Cohen, Philadelphia Attorney and Gerontologist

The gulag of guardianship: the legal system meant to protect our elderly is a national disgrace. — Money Magazine

"... older Americans are being robbed of their freedom and life savings by a legal system created for their protection." and "Although relatives are the most common exploiters, the damage they cause generally stays within the confines of their own families. By contrast, greedy professional guardians can wreak havoc on a far larger scale. In many states, there are few prerequisites for entering the guardianship business: no special training, no licensing process, no enforceable professional standards." — AARP: The Magazine, January/February 2004

"These are not isolated, occasional blips. This constitutes a significant portion of the cases out there. They were flat-out rip-off situations." — Robert L. Aldridge, elder law attorney and a member of

Re: forced incompetency: Visit assisted-living facilities [and retirement communities] and establish employee contacts; obtain voluntary limited financial guardianship; if there is money in the estate, do paperwork to force an evaluation of competency; get control over everything and the ward [senior] loses all rights. — Pinellas County Internal Auditor, Robert W. Melton, "Dirty Tricks of Guardianships – The Need for Change." April/2004

Once judged incompetent and placed under a conservatorship [or guardianship], a citizen becomes a nonperson, with fewer rights than a convicted felon in a penitentiary. Your income goes to the conservator, who also controls your assets. You can't write a check, use a credit card, or make an ATM withdrawal. — Robert Casey, Editor, Bloomberg Wealth Manager

"This is something that ought not to be taken lightly. Seniors have become victims of the legal process. When you become old, you should not, by the action of a court, automatically lose your rights just because some family member or impersonal administrator calls you incompetent." — Senator Larry Craig, Chairman, U.S. Senate's Special Committee on Aging. (February, 2003)

"[O]ne startling conclusion about the whole process of incompetency was drawn from the realization that in almost every case examined the aged incompetent was in a worse position after he was adjudicated incompetent than before. The study could identify no particular benefit which flowed to the incompetent that he could not have received without a finding of incompetency." G. Alexander & T. Lewin, The Aged and the Need for Surrogate Management, 136

Source: Justice for Florida Seniors Archive

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