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Guarding the Guardians: Promising Practices for Court Monitoring

Court-appointed guardians step into the shoes of at-risk adults with cognitive impairments, making judgments about medical care, property, living arrangements, lifestyle and potentially all personal and financial decisions. Court monitoring of these guardians is essential to ensure the welfare of incapacitated individuals, detect abuses and sanction guardians who demonstrate malfeasance.

Despite a dramatic strengthening of statutory standards in recent years, judicial monitoring practices vary substantially by jurisdiction. This AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) Research Report by Naomi Karp (PPI) and Erica Wood (American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging) describes methods for helping courts protect some of our society's most vulnerable people. Through site visits to exemplary courts, the authors have identified promising approaches that can be replicated by courts around the country.

The report...

  • reviews the demographic trends that will sharply increase the number of guardianships in the coming years,
  • provides an overview of previous studies of guardianship monitoring,
  • details effective practices employed in four exemplary courts (in Arizona, Idaho, New York and Texas) as well as notable approaches and techniques of other courts around the country, offering a set of specific methods for each “step” in the guardianship process, and
  • provides a range of other resources, including a table of state statutory authorities for guardianship monitoring and an extensive set of sample forms to facilitate the described practices.

(91 pages)

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