Finally, Washington is taking steps to protect older Americans who have fallen into an exploitation trap set for them by state courts. Federal officials will soon be empowered to go into states to investigate – and prosecute – unscrupulous court-appointed guardians and conservators who prey on their elderly wards.
This is a really big deal in my book, and a long overdue first step in curbing the obvious abuses of this mostly secret system. According to experts there are at least 1.3 million Americans currently living under guardianship control representing between $50 billion and $300 billion in assets that are at risk for exploitation.
Both houses of Congress have now passed Senate Bill 178, the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act, which strengthens the laws on elder abuse, neglect and exploitation on several fronts, including targeting telemarketers, e-mail scammers and the like.
But Congress has also now finally recognized the well-documented nationwide scandal wherein judges sidestep family members and appoint outside, for-profit guardians to handle the financial and personal affairs of aging Americans. In the end, hard-earned estates are frequently plundered, and families are left grieving. Inheritances wind up paying the fees of total strangers.