Senate Aging Committee Introduces Report to Improve Nation’s Guardianship System

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Ranking Member, US Senate Permanent Committee on Aging

Last month, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, held a US Special Committee on Aging hearing, to release its 2018 annual report that details a year-long examination of guardianship arrangements including research and recommendations on ways to improve the guardianship system in the United States.

At the November 28th hearing, “Ensuring Trusts: Strengthening State Efforts to Overhaul the Guardianship Process and Protect Older Americans.” Sens. Casey and Susan Collins (R-ME) also called for enactment of the Guardianship Accountability Act, to improve the nation’s guardianship system, reflecting one of the report’s recommended actions to strengthen guardianship arrangements by having courts to conduct criminal.

The released Senate Aging Committee report is the culmination of a year-long study of  ways in which the nation’s legal system can be improved to better protect older Americans subject to these and similar arrangements from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.  It addresses three key areas – the importance of guardianship oversight, alternatives to guardianship, and the need for improved data and it makes 13 recommendations.

Introduced Legislation to Fix Problem

The introduced legislative proposal would promote oversight of guardianship arrangements and encourage information sharing among government entities and with other relevant organizations. It would also allow states to fund data collection on guardianship arrangements and conduct background checks on guardians.

“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 subject to guardianship. As our report notes, there are persistent and widespread problems with guardianship arrangements nationwide,” said Sen. Casey. “This is why Sen. Collins and I introduced the Guardianship Accountability Act to begin reforming the guardianship system to ensure the protection of seniors under guardian care from losing their rights, savings or possessions because a guardian abused their power,” said the Democratic Pennsylvania Senator.

According to the National Center for State Courts, there are approximately 1.3 million adults and an estimated $50 billion of assets under guardianship arrangements. 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.

Accurate Information Crucial in Making Guardianship Decisions

Karen Buck, Executive Director of SeniorLAW, based in Philadelphia, before the committee at the invitation of Sen. Casey. SeniorLAW Center provides free legal representation, education and advocacy for older adults. During her testimony, she stated, “Few legal proceedings have more impact on an individual’s fundamental rights and liberties than guardianship…Providing accurate information to courts making these decisions, which have such an extraordinary impact on individual lives and freedom, is essential.”

To read the Guardianship Accountability Act, go to:  www.aging.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Guardianship%20Accountability%20Act%20of%202018.pdf.

To get the 38-page 2018 Aging Committee report on guardianship, go to www.aging.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Guardianship%20Report.pdf.

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