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Proposed state law may help prevent conservator theft

As we frequently discuss on this estate planning blog, in Canton and the surrounding area, being held legally responsible for the needs of a vulnerable person cannot be taken lightly. Thankfully, most individuals who apply for guardianship or conservatorship of another adult have the best interests of that person in mind and can be trusted to ensure that the person is well taken care of. Unfortunately, a small number of legal conservators take advantage of their powerful positions to steal from individuals in conservatorship.

A new bill aimed at preventing theft from vulnerable adults is currently making its way through the legal system in another state. The proposed law would make background checks for guardians and conservators much more thorough.

Under the potential Minnesota law, checks would take place every two years instead of every five and would take into account a number of additional elements not currently examined. The measure would look at prospective conservators' backgrounds in an attempt to discover evidence of personal financial mismanagement. It would also check professional license records for revocation or denial due to monetary transgressions.

According to the bill's author, nobody is currently lobbying against the proposal. Although this law, if passed, will only affect Minnesota residents, it draws attention to a national issue and could be used as a model in other states.

The legal responsibility granted to a conservator is usually not used against the person it is meant to protect. Nevertheless, some individuals do become overwhelmed by temptation and take money or possessions from the estates of the people they have been put in charge of. This can be deeply upsetting for the families of those affected, who may feel betrayed. If family members inform themselves about the law, they may be able to remedy at least a part of the financial and emotional damage caused by the theft.

Source: KSTP.com, "Bill Aims to Prevent Theft from Vulnerable Adults," Nick Winkler, Jan. 28, 2013

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