Government Calls into Question New York Probate Oversight of Guardianship Matters

The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that probate courts are not doing enough to protect vulnerable older adults against exploitation by guardians appointed to look after their health and finances.

Experienced New York City probate attorneys are frequently called to help establish Article 81 guardianship over an adult who cannot handle his or her own affairs. In many cases, such formal guardianship arrangements are preferable to powers of attorney or other less formal ways of acting on a person’s behalf, which frequently fall outside a court’s review and can be more ripe for abuse.However, this review found that many court systems are also not doing enough to protect the rights even of those placed under formal guardianship. In such cases, it becomes even more important to have an experienced New York City guardianship attorney who understands the system and can make sure your rights are protected on both sides of the guardianship arrangement.

The GAO review found substantial issues in 45 states from 1990 to 2010. Some $5.4 million was illegally obtained from 158 incapacitated victims, usually seniors. In other cases, physical abuse or neglect was prevalent. In other cases, an inappropriate guardian — including those with criminal records — was permitted to be appointed.

The government watchdog found that the New York process in particular was flawed after it tested four states by submitting fictitious guardianship information. Those states were Illinois, Nevada, New York and North Carolina. The GAO used applications with bad credit and false social security numbers but nevertheless passed the certification process. It noted that individuals under financial strain were more likely to engage in theft and people with criminal histories could easily conceal them by submitting false social security numbers.

The GAO said the results raised questions about the effectiveness of the certification program in New York and the other states tested.

Whichever side of the guardianship case you are on, whether you are seeking guardianship, challenging guardianship, or have been appointed guardian and are defending your actions, consulting with an experienced guardianship attorney in New York is critical to protecting your rights throughout the guardianship process.

New York City Probate and Guardianship Attorney Jules Martin Haas handles all types of Probate and Guardianship cases, including Wills, estate planning, estate settlement and advanced directives. Please call me at (212) 355-2575 for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

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