A popular misconception of guardianship/conservatorship
victims is that the court-appointed Guardian ad Litem. ("GAL")
is an advocate for and representative for their loved one to the
court. There are other titles used in different courts: court
evaluator, court visitor, etc.
The reality is quite the opposite. The GAL
is an official arm of the court with the responsibility of fact
finding and reporting information to the judge - not advocating for
the Ward. The GAL does not represent the alleged incompetent
person ("AIP") in any respect. If the AIP doesn't want to go
to a nursing home, for instance, but a nursing home is the GAL's
recommendation, then that's what the GAL reports to the court - not
the wishes of the AIP - and that's what the judge orders!
Another tragic irony! And guess who gets to pay for these
The Ward has to pay for the lawyer who represents the Guardian -
instead of representing the Ward. The Ward also pays for the
Guardian ad Litem (GAL) who represents the Court - and not the
Ward. Both the Guardian's lawyer and the GAL play the "protection"
game all the way to the bank. There is no understanding, either by
the Ward or the family, at the beginning of the proceeding, about
where these fees will be taken from. The Ward has to pay all the
fees for what the family considers their "adversaries," and the
family has to pay their own fees, trying to free the Ward. Go fight
Once again, the vulnerable Ward gets the short
end of the stick.
Most of our state statutes entitle the AIP to
representation at the inception of the proceedings, but others
interject the GAL-type process first. Apparently,
the decision-making element is set in motion before legal due
process begins, if it begins at all. The AIP's future is threatened
by this process, and the legal fee billings are adding up
before the first hearing!
Look up Guardian ad Litem in Webster's and
unfortunately, here's what you'll find:
"Guardian ad litem
is a term for a person appointed to protect the legal
interests of someone considered incompetent or
New Millennium Dictionary of English)
Guardianship abuse and conservatorship
abuse IS elder abuse!
(c) 2006 NASGA