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Care is important in exercising Massachusetts guardianship

There are horror stories all over the country regarding the abuse of an individual's guardianship powers. In one case, an out-of-state woman reported that she had to endure significant hardship in obtaining legal guardianship of her father after it was temporarily granted to a professional guardian. This story reinforces the belief that Massachusetts families must take special care in the guardianship process, so as to avoid a similar story occurring to them.

A guardianship occurs when a judge appoints an individual or entity to assume legal responsibility for a disabled individual. Normally, these cases originate regarding the care of an elderly individual who can no longer care for themselves. In the recent case, the woman claimed that her father was financially exploited by the court-appointed guardian. It was alleged that a large sum of money was missing from the father's bank accounts.

As a result of her suspicions, the California woman became embroiled in a legal battle to gain guardianship of her father in a Nevada court. The litigation lasted three years. After much turmoil, the woman was able to gain guardianship over her father and bring him home to live with her and her husband.

Although this case may seem like an aberration, there are guardianship cases similar to this one that have been disputed in Massachusetts and elsewhere. The U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that there were hundreds of reports of alleged misconduct by guardians that included both physical abuse and financial exploitation for the period of 1990-2010. A guardian has a fiduciary duty to always serve the best interest of their ward. By taking the proper steps to ensure the right appointment is made, families can avoid many of the dangers that may arise from an appointment made without proper care being exercised.

Source: Santacruz.com, "Guardianship Case Highlights Plight of Elderly," July 31, 2012

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