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Elderly woman's finances allegedly mishandled by legal guardian

When individuals in Michigan are given legal authority over someone else, most of them take that responsibility very seriously. Conservators usually handle delicate matters carefully and keep the best interests of their wards in mind as they fulfill their guardianship duties. However, examples of abuse or fraud still occasionally occur.

A recent news report has examined the strong hold that legal guardians may obtain over estates. A professional guardian in Florida submitted an emergency petition for the guardianship of an elderly woman in 2009 after receiving a call from the woman's bank manager, who was concerned about her customer's state of mind. In her court paperwork, the conservator stated that she filed the petition at the request of a social worker; in her own records, however, only her contact with the bank was documented.

After the elderly woman was made a ward of the state and lost her rights, the court-appointed guardian took over her financial affairs and began charging the woman $60 per hour. Within a month of meeting her guardian, the elderly woman was found incompetent and sent to a rest home. The guardian subsequently increased her rate to $75 per hour.

In 2010, the guardian decided to sell her ward's home to fund the guardianship account. Over the course of the sale process, she charged $938 for time spent identifying minor maintenance issues and discussing the sale of the home with the buyer and real estate agent involved. In total, the guardian billed the woman's estate $34,461 over the course of her involvement.

When the elderly woman died in 2012, the guardian reportedly failed to properly examine the woman's will despite her knowledge of its existence. Instead of being cremated according to her wishes, the woman was buried next to her husband. A number of friends remained unaware of her passing for some time because there was no notice published about her death.

When situations like this occur, they often serve as stark reminders of the power held by legal guardians. To maintain asset protection, it is important to ensure that estate plans are as watertight as possible; this is often best accomplished via solid support and legal guidance. Individuals with elderly relatives may find it in their best interests to become thoroughly acquainted with their legal rights as well as the legal rights of their family members.

Source: TheLedger.com, "Legal Guardians Have a Lot of Sway Over Wards' Lives," Rick Rousos, Feb. 3, 2013

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