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Texas senator co-sponsors bill for guardianship alternatives

When a court appoints a guardian to care for an elderly or disabled person, the individual appointed is entrusted with the responsibility to oversee and make many decisions in the best interests of the person under their care. Other times, guardianship alternatives such as powers of attorneys are used. No matter which approach is followed, sometimes the person entrusted with the guardianship may misuse financial resources or otherwise abuse or neglect the person whose welfare they have been entrusted with. Texas Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) has co-sponsored, with Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act, which cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 12, and is now headed to the full Senate for voting.

The bill was introduced partly as a result of a 2010 study by the Government Accountability Office that found hundreds of cases in which guardians had mistreated incapacitated individuals between 1990 and 2010. The report found that guardians had misused or stolen $5.4 million from 158 people. The bill was introduced to address these issues.

The focus of the legislation is to provide resources to the states to better oversee and administer guardians and conservators in their state. Some funds would be earmarked for state courts to evaluate their current system for overseeing guardians and conservators and then institute a program to make necessary changes. Another portion of the funding would help finance a state system for background checks. Finally, the bill would help fund an electronic filing system to allow court officials to more easily audit reports filed by conservators and guardians to look for possible abuse.

Whether court-appointed or selected by the family, it is important to remember that the person entrusted with the guardianship of another person is responsible for making important decisions for the person in their care. Even if the bill is not enacted, Texas and other states may benefit from reviewing criteria for selecting guardians. In doing so, they could potentially evaluate any oversight system in place and assess whether guardians appointed are properly supervised in the performance of their duties.

Source: Hometown Source, "Klobuchar legislation to protect seniors from neglect and abuse passes committee," July 12, 2012

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