Why guardianship often isn’t the best alternative

On Behalf of | Oct 1, 2022 | Guardianships And Conservatorships |

These days, more and more Americans are growing old alone. Many of them never had children, or perhaps their children are scattered throughout the country or around the world. Often, parents and adult children become estranged.

When an older person is no longer able to care for themselves, it’s becoming more common for a guardian who’s not a relative or close friend to be appointed. In some cases, guardians abuse or neglect the people they’re supposed to look after. This abuse often includes fraud and theft from vulnerable seniors whose personal financial information and assets guardians often have unlimited access to in order to do their job.

Guardianship abuse

Several years ago, the HBO show Last Week Tonight spotlighted the growing problem of guardianship abuse of the then-estimated 1.3 million Americans under guardianship. The show focused on “professional” guardians who often are tasked with caring for multiple people. However, too often, this abuse – physical, emotional and financial – is perpetrated by people who know or are even related to the person under guardianship.

Oversight of guardians by states and localities is often sorely lacking – mostly because of a lack of resources for the ever-growing number of elderly people in this country who are under guardianship.

What is the Guardianship Monitoring Program?

New Jersey has a Guardianship Monitoring Program (GMP) that is responsible for “oversight of guardianships [to] help identify, address, prevent, and deter activities that are harmful to incapacitated individuals.” This program, however, relies on volunteers who are responsible primarily for monitoring financial records.

While most people who work in this or any other guardianship system have the best interests of those they look after at heart, it’s easy to see how an elderly or disabled person can fall through the cracks, potentially lose their savings and benefits and suffer far worse consequences.

General guardianship is not the only choice for an elderly person who is no longer fully able to look after themselves or their finances. There are less restrictive options, like limited guardianships and powers of attorney (POA).

Whether you’re planning for your own future or you’re concerned about a loved one, it’s crucial to explore all of the options available in New Jersey. Having experienced legal guidance can help you make the best possible choice.