Guardianship Fraud Information
Harrowing stories of guardianship fraud are not hard to find. Usually, it involves an elderly person being forced into guardianship by a probate court. Adults with cognitive impairment are vulnerable to abuse, neglect and exploitation.
In a recent case, a middle-class couple in their seventies lost all their assets, including their home and car, and were forced into a substandard retirement home, even though their daughter had power of attorney, lived nearby and called or visited them daily. Neither had been certified as incapacitated by their doctor. Reports of greedy, professional guardians ripping off the person they are supposed to protect are widespread.
Guardianship should be a last resort as it strips a person’s rights to make decisions for themselves. Courts may not have the time or resources to properly monitor guardianships and protect those in need. There are several alternatives to guardianship. (See below for a link to the Texas Bar Association’s explanation of alternatives.)
If you think you will eventually need a guardian you should designate someone before you are incapacitated. Most people will need the help of an attorney who is an expert in elder law.
In Texas, guardianship laws are established under Texas Probate Code, Section 679: Designation of Guardian Guardianship Laws
Other helpful websites include:
- Texas Bar Association’s website (texasbar.com) has basic information and a link to guardianship alternatives (texasbarcle.com).
- Texas Guardianship Association publishes up-to-date information on guardianship basics as well as laws governing guardianship texasguardianship.org/
- The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (hhs.texas.gov) publishes “A Texas Guide to Adult Guardianship,” which lists the pros and cons of guardianship.
- AARP.org is a reliable source of information on elder law and elder fraud.
- Elderlawanswers.com includes a section on guardianship and how it can be abused.
- For more case studies on what can go wrong in guardianship relationships see Michael Larsen’s 2016 book Guardianship: Fraud.