Bad guardians will find any crack in the
crevice to get into our lives and our loved one's pocketbook; but
oftentimes, we've unwittingly opened the door and invited them in
ourselves, following a family feud.
This is the phrase the guardians like to use - or "family squabble."
could start because one family member feels slighted - discovering
another will inherit more of the eventual estate. Theft by a
family member is often actually involved. Or maybe one sibling is taking care of
Mom and the others think that he/she is taking advantage of her or not
treating her properly. Maybe the siblings have
never gotten along. Worse, maybe one sibling is actually
abusing Mom and she's in danger. Sometimes families call an APS-type agency
to complain about each other. The problem escalates very quickly
and often ends up in court, where the siblings expect the
disagreement will be settled -- by
a judge who will hear all sides. Each side may believe they're
clearly right and the others are wrong.
The day you take the matter to court is the day you lose your
loved one! Almost without exception, the judge will appoint a third-party guardian - regardless of whether advance directives (durable power of attorney,
health proxy, wills, trusts, etc.) are in place or not.
The courts are known to be biased against the family. Why?
Did you ever hear the word "patronage"? That means judges giving
business to their buddies. And that's why bias is
encouraged by the guardian ad litem and attorneys in the case. They are
the ones who benefit monetarily if they can keep the disagreement going,
leading to a forced guardianship/conservatorship. There's no
real interest in the welfare or wellbeing of your loved one; the judge
will appoint a professional or public guardian, citing the long-standing
family dispute as the end that justifies the means. In other words, the
Ward is punished because his/her family "can't get along."
And the guardian fans the flames to guarantee that there will be no
settlement of the dispute,
rationalizing and entrenching his/her
function and continued existence.
If you can avoid going to court, you can avoid a forced
guardianship or conservatorship.
Try every possible means to mediate your dispute and come to terms
without outside involvement.
What can happen if you fail
to settle the family dispute? You will lose your loved one
to strangers with the absolute right over life and death. Before
that happens, your loved one will lose practically all civil
rights, as well as all property - investments, life savings, personal
possessions, family treasures - everything. Old family
photographs may wind up in the trash can. And that's not the worst
of it: you will lose all input into your loved one's care and the
right to even know of his/her medical condition. You will be
powerless to help your loved one when the guardian sends him/her to a
nursing home. You may even be barred from visiting!
One of our NASGA members said it best, "If I would have known the
real truth about guardianship, I would have mediated with my brother
till the cows came home. But I did not know I had an option...."
We all stand on principle at least once in our lives, but this is a case
where doing so may cost everything most precious to you.
Weigh the dispute: will the result (guardianship/conservatorship) be
worth the terrible price paid to try to "win"?
Guardianship abuse and conservatorship
abuse IS elder abuse!
(c) 2006 NASGA