Despite what the N.M. Judiciary and the Developmental Disabilities Office of Guardianship have reported to the Legislative Health and Human Services Interim Committee, the guardianship system in New Mexico continues to be in crisis.
Abusive guardianships continue to occur in New Mexico, sponsored by predatory attorneys and sanctioned by district court judges. The Guardianship Law, 45-5-101 through 45-5-617, was established in 2012 to protect and preserve the well-being and assets of the incapacitated person. However, this is not what is happening in the Land of Enchantment. Unethical professionals – district court judges, petitioning attorneys, corporate guardians, guardian ad litems and conservators – continue to abuse the system. The individuals who control the outcome of the guardianship case are the petitioning attorney and the district court judge. The judge grants the power to the appointed guardian and conservator, who control every aspect of the “protected person’s” life – such as where the individual lives, what medication is prescribed and to be taken, which doctors the person may visit, who can visit and speak to the individual, and, of course, their money and assets.
Additionally, N.M. courts have disregarded the legitimate written directives, wills and trusts that have been prepared. In order for true guardianship reform to occur, judges must appoint guardians and conservators who understand, respect and advocate for the wishes and best interests of the “protected person.” This is exactly why family members and guardianship advocate groups must be recognized as the experts when it comes to hearing and understanding our loved ones. Family members must also have an equal voice at the decision-making table. We are the eyes and ears on the ground. We have the day-to-day experiences with our loved ones. We know the individual, his/her likes, dislikes, triggers, medical history, hopes and dreams. A corporate guardian and/or conservator is a complete stranger strictly involved for profit.
Our state leaders – legislators, Cabinet secretaries, the attorney general and the governor – must address these injustices to ensure our most vulnerable population’s human rights, civil rights, and protection of their financial assets are respected and protected.
The media must continue to report on these concerns. The public has a right to know.
This guest column was also signed by Rick and Terry Black, executive directors of the Center for Estate Administration Reform, and Dr. Sam Sugar, founder of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship.