Senators Collins, Casey Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Protect Individuals Under the Care of Guardians
The legislation would implement many of the recommendations from the Aging Committee’s year-long investigation of guardianship abuse
Washington, D.C. — According to the National Center for State Courts, approximately 1.3 million adults are currently under the care of guardians – family members or professionals – who control roughly $50 billion of their assets.
Good guardians can provide years of support for individuals, ensuring a full life directed, wherever possible, by the person’s own choices and preferences. Without proper oversight, however, unscrupulous guardians can abuse these legal relationships and exploit the individuals they are supposed to protect. State courts are tasked with monitoring guardianships in order to protect individuals subject to guardianship from abuse, neglect and exploitation. Despite this responsibility, few states are able to provide courts with adequate resources to monitor guardianships effectively and hold guardians accountable.
In a continuation of their efforts to protect seniors and people with disabilities from abusive guardians, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Aging Committee, introduced the Guardianship Accountability Act. The legislation addresses many of the recommendations in the Aging Committee’s report, “Ensuring Trust: Strengthening State Efforts to Overhaul the Guardianship Process and Protect Older Americans,” that was released at a November 2018 hearing following a year-long investigation.
“Protecting older Americans from financial fraud and exploitation has long been one of my top priorities as Chairman of the Aging Committee,” said Senator Collins. “Combating guardianship abuse of seniors requires law enforcement and social service agencies at all levels of government to work together, and the Guardianship Accountability Act promotes this kind of collaboration. I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation.”
“While most guardians act in the best interest of the individual they care for, far too often, we have heard horror stories of guardians who have abused, neglected or exploited a person in their care,” said Senator Casey. “The Guardianship Accountability Act is a first step towards improving our guardianship system and ensuring it protects seniors and people with disabilities.”
Numerous reported instances of fraud underscore the vulnerabilities created by guardianships and the need for diligent oversight. For instance, a guardian from Nevada allegedly used the guardianship process to financially exploit more than 150 individuals. Another guardian from North Carolina—along with an attorney, an advocate, and a professor—took advantage of two men under guardianship and allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Guardianship Accountability Act would ensure individuals under the care of guardians are not at risk of abuse or neglect by expanding the availability of federal demonstration grants by the Elder Justice Act, so funds can be used for developing state guardianship databases to collection information on guardians, training for court visitors, and sharing information on guardian background checks with appropriate entities. It would also establish a National Online Resource Center on Guardianship, which would be tasked with:
- Collecting and publishing information relevant to guardianship for use by guardians, individuals subject to guardianship, as well as courts, states, local governments, and community organizations;
- Publishing model legislation and best practices developed pursuant to the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act;
- Compiling and publishing training materials for guardians;
- Sharing research related to guardianship; and
- Maintaining a database on state laws regarding guardianship and the use of less restrictive alternatives, and the restoration of rights.