Law Office of John S. Palmer Attorney at Law

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Minnesota’s Online Reporting System for Guardians

Posted Saturday, February 6, 2016 by John S. Palmer

A recent Minnesota Star Tribune article has caught the eye of elder law attorneys here in Washington. It chronicles that state’s efforts to stop financial abuse of the elderly and disabled by guardians and conservators, through a mandatory online financial reporting system called MyMNConservator, which has the ability to alert the court to irregularities such as a dramatic increase in spending.

The article contains the all-too-typical stories of financial abuse, such as unexplained ATM withdrawals of an incapacitated person’s funds at a local casino. And Minnesota’s experience is not unique. According to a 2010 Report by the US Government Accountability Office entitled Cases of Financial Exploitation, Neglect and Abuse of Seniors:

In 20 selected closed cases, GAO found that guardians stole or otherwise improperly obtained $5.4 million in assets from 158 incapacitated victims, many of whom were seniors. In some instances, guardians also physically neglected and abused their victims. The guardians in these cases came from diverse professional backgrounds and were overseen by local courts in 15 states and the District of Columbia…In 6 of 20 cases, the courts failed to adequately screen potential guardians, appointing individuals with criminal convictions or significant financial problems to manage high-dollar estates. In 12 of 20 cases, the courts failed to oversee guardians once they were appointed, allowing the abuse of vulnerable seniors and their assets to continue. Lastly, in 11 of 20 cases, courts and federal agencies did not communicate effectively or at all with each other about abusive guardians, allowing the guardian to continue the abuse of the victim and/or others.

Efforts to curb these abuses generally involve improving court oversight of guardians. Unlike Minnesota’s new online reporting system, Washington still requires superior court judges or commissioners to manually review and approve financial accountings filed by guardians.

Nonetheless, Washington is more aggressive than most states in addressing the problem. It is one of a handful of states to adopt standards of practice for professional guardians, and requires lay guardians (often family members and friends of the incapacitated person) to submit proof of completion of a free online training program prior to their appointment, though the court may defer completion of the training to a date no later than 90 days after appointing the guardian if the appointment is expedited due to emergent circumstances.

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Law Office of John S. Palmer11911 NE 1st St, Ste. B204,Bellevue, WA 98005-3056