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Possible perils of guardianship

Some older people in Florida may be subject to guardianships that are abusive or neglectful, and concerned family members might struggle to take control back from those guardians. Some advocates for the elderly reject the notion of guardianship for older individuals, and some suggest supported decision-making instead.

This is the position of the grandson of a New York philanthropist who had a power of attorney for the philanthropist wrested from his father after learning his grandmother was neglected. The father later went to prison for stealing from the estate. He had also allegedly not filled her prescription medications.

However, the road for worried family members can be difficult because they may be accused of greed, drug abuse or mental illness by guardians who are taking advantage of their charges. A guardianship means the older person abdicates rights to assets, residence and control over medical care. Surveys show that families have little confidence in the system to protect their loved ones. According to one by Americans Against Abusive Protective Guardianship, 80 percent of people who were involved in a probate case dealing with guardianship felt the judge was subject to influence while 90 percent said the best interests of the elderly person were not served by the judge. Another 70 percent felt the same was true of the nursing home the individual was placed in.

An attorney may be able to assist in these types of probate cases. They can be emotionally exhausting and overwhelming for concerned family members, but it might be possible to get control back from an abusive guardian. By working with an attorney, family members may be able to get a strategy in place that helps to protect elderly relatives and their assets.

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