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Estate Planning Attorney Discusses the Issue of Guardianship Abuse in Kansas

Weber Law Jan. 29, 2019

When a court appoints a guardian to look after the affairs of a ward, the guardian is charged with safeguarding the ward’s physical and financial well-being. Unfortunately, some of the people appointed to the position of guardian abuse the role of guardian and use their position to steal from the wards that they have been appointed to care for.

Some instances of guardianship abuse affect a single victim and their loved ones, but some professional guardians serve more than one ward. In one situation that happened in Nevada, a court-appointed guardian, her employee and her friend worked together to exploit over a hundred and fifty victims. The three were charged with a total of two hundred and seventy counts of criminal activity, including racketeering, exploitation of vulnerable parties, and theft. Hundreds of cases of guardianship abuse are reported every year, and the damage that the wards and their families experience varies greatly, from financial exploitation and emotional harm to physical violence.

When a court appoints a guardian, the guardian becomes responsible for every aspect of their ward’s life, from health and housing, long-term financial stability, monthly bills and every detail of their lives in between. When a guardian acts with the integrity that the law requires of them, their wards’ physical and financial needs are met in appropriate ways. Guardianships must be used sparingly because they take so many rights away from the ward all at once, and because they are tough to have dissolved once they are in place. People who have been placed under involuntary guardianship who are not incapacitated have run out of money trying to get those guardianships overturned, even when they have the assistance of others who can vouch for their ability to take care of themselves.

How to Prevent Guardianship Abuse

The best way to prevent guardianship abuse is to avoid guardianship except in situations where it is necessary. You can do this by researching and trying less restrictive options for meeting your friend or family member’s needs. You can do that with their help, and you may be surprised what you can find. Sometimes, the condition that appears to create a demand for guardianship is something that a person can work through with a lot of support at first, and then less and less help as they progress in resolving the condition. One example of this is when someone suffers a stroke. That person needs a lot of care at first, but rehabilitation can occur rapidly, and individuals may regain the ability to do many things they needed help with right after their stroke happened much faster than anyone may have expected them to. If someone you know has a stroke or other condition that creates a need for support in their daily activities, work with them and their doctors to learn more about their prognosis and the possible timeline for whether and how they’ll regain the ability to do some or all of the things they need help with now. Often, a person can maintain their freedom and autonomy with the support of a few services like home health visits or transportation, making guardianship unnecessary.

If you have questions about guardianship or you would like to schedule an initial consultation with Wichita attorney J. Joseph Weber. Please call our office or contact us through our website.