Guardianship Reform Needed to Protect the Elderly

Madeleine Jones
November 2, 2016

Clark County has a guardianship system for people who become incapacitated and who are no longer able to make important financial and medical decisions for themselves, but there are some bad actors within the system who exploit the people under their care for money. In the county, poor people who are incapacitated are appointed a public guardian who will oversee their care and finances. People who are wealthier and who become incapacitated may have private guardians appointed to oversee them, and there have been some problems involving these private guardians draining the value of estates and taking advantage of the elderly people who are under their supervision. A nursing home abuse attorney may help families to work to remove guardians and to seek recompense for money that has been stolen from their loved ones.

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infographic_Guardianship Reform Needed to Protect the Elderly

Private Guardians and Financial Exploitation

Private guardians may include licensed third-party guardians or family members who have been appointed by the courts to supervise the finances and care of incapacitated people. Licensed third-party guardians are able to charge reasonable fees for their services, but their billings are rarely audited unless complaints are made. There have been some cases in Nevada in which licensed private guardians have stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from the people under their care and were only caught when others complained.

Family members also sometimes exploit elderly relatives who are under their care. They may steal their retirement checks or put pressure on their elderly relatives to sign over property or to give them money. Both licensed private guardians and family members who financially exploit the elderly may face both criminal liability and civil liability for their actions. A nursing home abuse attorney may file a civil lawsuit for his or her client to recover damages through the civil courts while a prosecutor may be assigned to handle the corollary criminal prosecution.

Need for Reform

The private guardianship system that is used has some areas where reform is needed. One problem is that private, court-appointed guardians are not subjected to regular audits of their billings. Another issue is that they are only required to submit single, annual reports showing how the wards’ money was spent, but those are not always filed. The law should be changed to define what reasonable fees are and to provide a more robust system of oversight in order to prevent financial abuse by both private guardians and family members of elderly people.