|It was supposed to be bi-partisan legislation that would help our state’s most vulnerable people. But instead of sailing through, several proposed guardianship reforms have stalled.|
By: Heather Catallo
(WXYZ) — It was supposed to be bi-partisan legislation that would help our state’s most vulnerable people.
But instead of sailing through the state legislature, several proposed guardianship reforms have stalled.
In Michigan, if a court declares you legally incapacitated, a judge can appoint a guardian for you, which means you can no longer make your own legal, medical or financial decisions.
Back in 2021, Attorney General Dana Nessel’s Elder Abuse Task Force helped launch bi-partisan bills designed to better protect people who are put under guardianship.
But those bills never got signed into law thanks in part to professional guardians who did not want the same changes.
For 5 years, the 7 Investigators have been exposing problems in Michigan’s guardianship system.
“It's disgusting. Our elderly people shouldn't be a commodity and shouldn't be able to be trafficked by these people,” said Gretchen Sommer.
A judge appointed a professional guardian instead of family member for Sommer’s aunt, Barbara Delbridge, and her uncle, Bob Mitchell, back in 2018.
“Kept them hostage, took them from their families, locked them behind a six-and-a-half-foot privacy fence and just drained their estate, researched how to sell off their property,” said Sommer.
The guardian billed Bob and Barb’s estate for more than $376,000 in fees.
Our investigations helped fuel new reforms crafted by Nessel’s Elder Abuse Task Force, and in 2021, after years of work, they introduced four bills to change the state law.
“We felt as though it would completely change the face of protection of seniors in Michigan,” Nessel told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo.