Court-appointed guardians make virtually all decisions for people who are judged too incapacitated to care for themselves, managing their finances as well as decisions about health, housing and even meals. Some are relatives, while others are friends or lawyers.
Chief Justice Stuart J. Rabner said the courts had developed a new database to track all guardianships and make sure that each case is reviewed annually. The volunteers in the new guardianship monitoring program will read the annual reports and flag “inconsistent or incomplete” financial information, and report potential improprieties to judges.
The number of people with court-appointed legal guardians in New Jersey is rapidly increasing, Chief Justice Rabner said. Last year 3,900 people were declared incapacitated enough that their financial and health decisions were turned over to guardians. The number will only increase, he said, as rates of autism and Alzheimer’s disease continue to rise, and as the population ages. By 2030, he said, about 20 percent of the state’s population will be 65 years or older, up from about 13 percent now.
Many guardians do not file required reports detailing the financial situations and well-being of the people they oversee, or if they do, the reports often go unread, Chief Justice Rabner said. The state does not even have a complete count of how many people are under the care of guardians.
Chief Justice Rabner cited several cases in which guardians stole from people whose lives they essentially controlled. In 2004, a lawyer in Ocean County was convicted of stealing $2.6 million from 56 people in his care. In 2008, a minister in the same county was convicted of stealing $200,000 from 19 people. In October 2011, a lawyer was indicted on charges that he stole $800,000 from 60 people in his care in Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
Those people were caught, the chief justice said, because those counties aggressively review guardians’ annual reports. Many other counties, he said, do not have the personnel to do so.
He said that the courts were looking for volunteers who knew how to analyze simple financial reports, but that training would be provided by the state’s judiciary branch.
The program has begun in three counties, and is expected to be statewide by November. Court officials said only Delaware and Utah had similar statewide monitoring.

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New Jersey Asks for Help to Halt Fraud by Guardians