Guardianship is a powerful legal tool that can bring good or ill for an increasing number of vulnerable adults with cognitive impairments. Incapacitated elders are at risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation by guardians with the authority to make surrogate personal and financial decisions. To better understand how courts are monitoring the performance of guardians, AARP’s Public Policy Institute (PPI) took the first detailed look at guardianship monitoring in over fifteen years.
This report by Naomi Karp of AARP PPI and Erica Wood of the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging presents the results of a 2005 national survey of frontline professionals. Key findings include:
- Despite a dramatic strengthening of statutory safeguards, guardianship monitoring practices continue to show wide variation.
- Practices regarding filing of reports by guardians have advanced over the past 15 years, with more courts requiring periodic personal status reports and forward-looking plans.
- Verification of guardian reports and accounts is frequently lacking. Over one-third of respondents said no one is designated to verify the information in these mandatory reports.
- Over 40% reported that no one is assigned by the court to visit individuals under guardianship, and only one-fourth said that someone visits regularly.
- Use of technology in monitoring is minimal, despite vast opportunities for web-based and email monitoring techniques and computerized data collection.
- Funding for guardianship monitoring remains minimal.