Articles Posted in Guardianship

In a perfect world, a child would be raised by its parents. However, this isn’t always possible, and legally enforceable decisions must sometimes be made to name the person who is best positioned to look after a child.

Guardianship is generally only needed when a person is incapable—whether legally or practically—of looking after their own affairs, says VENTS Magazine in the article “Legal Guardianship 101: What You Need to Know.”

Courts have the power to appoint guardians for adults and children. This is usually a person who is unable to make decisions for themselves.

4.518With a growing population of elderly, the lack of regulations and oversight has led to a disastrous situation for adults who lose civil liberties via guardianship proceedings.

A review by the Reading Eagle of court documents in three Pennsylvania counties show that when it is necessary for Adult Protective Services to intervene, agencies prefer having professional guardians rather than family members.

The story, “Finding solutions to Pennsylvania's troubled system of naming guardians,” reports that over the past two decades, filings statewide have risen 28%, faster than the increase of people 60 and older—the demographic most likely to be in a guardianship. In fact, the system in Pennsylvania already shows signs of strain: the Philadelphia Orphans Court is willing to retain a felon convicted of financial fraud as guardian to dozens of incapacitated adults, because of a shortage of professionals able to assume her caseload.

11.14.17It sounds like a nightmare scenario, and for many elderly, it is a reality: a court appoints a guardian and they lose the ability to make decisions about their assets and their lives, often with no advance warning.

An article in Reuters reports on a journalist’s investigation that revealed a case where a private guardian was appointed by a court in Nevada and got a court order making her guardian of a couple who had an adult daughter. With no advance notice to the couple or their daughter, the guardian sold all of their assets and got them admitted to a nursing home.

Reuters’ article, “With U.S. elder abuse in spotlight, a look at guardians,” reports that the abuses of private-guardian systems in some states have been known by policy and legal experts for years.

4.3.17The moment you become a parent, you need a will. The same is true once you acquire any kind of asset that you want to give to someone after you die. It’s really that simple.

The reasons why so many people don’t think they need a will fall into a number of different categories.  However, the two biggest ones are described in an article appearing in the Pauls Valley Daily Democrat titled “More on estate planning myths.” Chances are good you’ve heard them before, but you may not have heard why they are plain old wrong. Here’s why:

 “I’m young, so I don’t need a will.” This is not true. One of the most important parts of a will for a young couple, is a provision that designates a guardian—the person(s) who will care for their young children in the event of their mutual death. This is rare, although it does happen. To make matters worse, what if there’s a family fight for custody of your children? Make this selection so the court isn’t forced to select a guardian for your minor children if the event arises. A will can give you peace of mind concerning the care of your children.

11.28.16Estate planning for entrepreneurs is not complete until it includes a succession plan. Individuals who create successful businesses often find it hard to consider handing over the reins.

Entrepreneurs would not succeed without their ability to focus all of their energies on their business. It is not easy for this type of person to imagine that one day they may want to retire or that the possibility exists that they might become ill, injured or even die. Without an effective estate plan that includes a succession plan, their work, staff and families may be placed in jeopardy.

A recent business.com post, “5 Estate Planning Tips for Entrepreneurs,” lists these important estate planning essentials:

11.7.16Many people put off doing their wills because of the difficulty of deciding on a guardian for their minor children. But if choosing one is difficult, choosing two might actually make the process easier.

This is the situation no one wants to even think about: both parents dying unexpectedly and young children being raised by someone else. But it does happen. That’s why having a will and naming a guardian is so important for anyone who has children. Usually the problem is deciding between someone who is really good with your kids but who might not be so good or experienced with handling money and investments. But there is another way, as explained by NJ 101.5 in “Choosing guardians for your minor children.”

Yes, you can appoint one person as a guardian of the person—he or she will care for your child—and designate another person as a guardian of the estate—this person will care for your child’s assets. Typically when minors are part of estate planning, the parents’ assets are put into trust until the minor reaches a specified age(s) when distributions are authorized or required to be made. As an illustration, the trust can dictate that a third of the balance be distributed when the beneficiary reaches age 25, a third when he or she reaches age 30, and the remainder when the beneficiary reaches age 35. At that point, the trust will be terminated.

6.8.16In many cases, the incapacitated person does need the protection of a guardian. But far too often, the guardian is the source of abuse, and the lack of oversight leads to appalling situations.

Celebrity cases where persons appointed as guardians fleece their relatives or sequester them against their wills in nursing homes may get the headlines, but what happens to regular people is one of the quiet shames of our country. Despite many changes in the law, vulnerable people continue to be abused by professionals and family members whose interests are not in the well-being of the person they have been court-appointed to protect.

When a judge imposes legal guardianship or conservatorship, the ward or "incapacitated person" may no longer be allowed to decide where to live or whom he or she will see. If a guardian is appointed, that individual gets to decide whether the ward is allowed spending money. He or she won't be able to enter into contracts, including marriage, or demand a different guardian—even if the guardian is abusing the ward or stealing his or her money.

Image1Much needed changes are underway at the Clark County Nevada Guardianship program, after a local television reporter uncovered major lack of oversight, including families torn apart and financial abuse by the individuals charged with protecting the elderly. According to a follow-up report by KTNV News, "More staff means more oversight in guardianship system," some of the changes are the establishment of a hotline and the examination of all guardianship processes.

Clark County District Court will add more staff to better supervise guardianship cases in response to what they have termed a clear need for compliance oversight after the KTNV investigation showed double billing and questionable charges. They found cases where the entire life savings of vulnerable "wards" went missing and their homes were sold without court approval.

The court has hired a new Guardianship Compliance Administrator who will oversee the adult guardianship program, create a citizen complaint process, and look into any claims of discrepancy or fraud. The court is also taking action on several other issues stemming from the news investigation, including greater transparency and scrutiny of how private professional guardians handle a person's money.

Black and White man wagging fingerGuardianship is a fairly straightforward and basic function. A person who is not able to handle her or his own affairs, for any number of reasons, is assigned a guardian by the court, who is to act on their behalf for financial, medical and care-taking purposes. The guardian is charged with putting the interest of their ward first, and the guardian is entrusted with a great deal of responsibility.

However, as the Wall Street Journal reports, in "Abuses Plague Guardianship Systems Across the Country," the financial abuse of elderly people by guardians is rampant throughout the United States.

Court appointed guardians with no family relationship to the elderly wards too often act in their own interests and deplete the wealth of the wards.

Texas flagNaming a guardian for minor children is never a pleasant task, but this situation makes a compelling argument for why it is so important. A Texas Attorney General with legal problems was appointed guardian of a large trust for two minor siblings and certain facts don’t seem quite right. That no investigation is being made makes one wonder if this is what their father had in mind.

When minors are to receive an inheritance and no guardian has been named, it is normal for a court to name a Guardian ad Litem. This is typically an attorney who is expected to represent the minors and look out for their best interests. When Tanner Hunt, the son of Texas billionaire Ray Hunt, passed away, he left behind a large trust fund and two minor daughters.

In the Hunt case, current Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was appointed as the Guardian ad Litem for the minor daughters. Questions are being asked about Paxton's role in participating in negotiations that would have potentially bought the daughters out of any interest in the Hunt trust for a substantially lower amount than they would have otherwise been entitled to.

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