LOUIS, Missouri. The elderly across the country are facing a mostly-hidden challenge from family courts. The New Yorker recently reported on cases in which family courts grant “guardians” the right to take control of an elderly person’s finances, home, and personal decisions. These “guardians” may or may not be known to the elderly person being affected. In fact, in some areas of the country, the guardians are for-profit companies that sell assets, drain the estates of the elderly, and bill hundreds of dollars an hour for these services—all while the family fights to regain their loved one’s rights.
When courts grant guardianships, the people put under guardianship lose many important rights. They lose the right to manage their finances, control their medical treatment, and even decide where to live. Emergency ex-parte petitions can give a guardian temporary custody. The courts can grant this without letting the affected parties know (including their families) or before the case is even heard by a judge. Frighteningly, in the cases of the most egregious guardianship violations, it isn’t the children or the family who seek the guardianship, but complete strangers and companies whose interest is to make a profit.
According to the New Yorker, 1.5 million adults are currently under guardianship. In some cases, these guardianships are necessary, especially if an individual becomes too ill to care for him or herself. Often, family will step in to protect the rights of the individual. But, in some cases, private individuals will step in—usually when there is no family. In some areas of the country, the courts have been granting guardianships to private companies that make a profit off the lives of seniors. Judges sometimes perpetuate a system where families lose the right to manage their parent’s estates, and courts favor private guardians who bill by the hour for managing an estate.
In some cases, the wards are denied the right to speak in court, attend court, and the families are denied the right to take over the guardianship once a private company has become involved. In some cases, the private companies have close connections with the judges who decide the cases.
Yet, a recent law may finally protect elders subject to guardianship abuse. According to Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship, the Elder Abuse Protection and Prosecution Act now offers federal protections for adults who are under guardianship. For the first time, the elderly may be able to fight back when family courts make the wrong decision.
If you or a loved one is under guardianship or if you are considering guardianship for a loved one, it is important to understand the law. The Behrens Law Firm, L.L.C. are family lawyers in St. Louis, Missouri who work closely with family and the elderly to protect their rights. If you or your family is facing family law questions pertaining to guardianship, consider speaking to the Behrens Law Firm, L.L.C. today. Visit us at https://www.barbarabehrensdivorceattorney.com/ to learn more about your rights.