What Is Guardianship?
Imagine you’ve worked hard all of your life and suddenly you are deemed incapacitated and are stripped of your dignity and basic individual rights. You have been abducted from your home, isolated from your family, and “placed” somewhere to be medicated while your assets are being pillaged. The authorities that should be protecting you are the ones committing these heinous acts. It sounds like Nazi Germany, but this is happening in the United States today.
The victims are seniors. The partners in crime are financial predators and agents of the Elder Guardianship system—attorneys, professional guardians, medical experts, and others who are paid out of the senior’s assets. There are some good judges but many are overworked and some are actively aiding the exploitation. Anyone can file to deem you incapacitated. The entire process from filing an incapacity petition to plenary guardianship where all rights are removed can happen within days. Yet, once you’re caught in the web, it’s almost impossible to break free... and you are forced to pay your abusers in the process.
– From “Is Elder Guardianship a New Form of Human Trafficking?” by Dr. Terri Kennedy, HuffPost, September 13, 2016
According to AARP.org, “Adult Guardianship is a relationship created by state law in which a court gives one person or entity (the guardian) the duty and power to make personal and/or property decisions for another (the incapacitated person or ward). A judge appoints a guardian upon finding that an adult lacks capacity to make decisions for him or herself. Guardianships are established through a legal process outlined in state law. The process begins with a petition alleging incapacity, followed by a court hearing, a judicial finding on capacity, and the appointment of a guardian. The judge may appoint a guardian of the person only, a guardian of the property only (often known as a 'conservator'), or guardian for both the person and the property. The appointment may be an emergency order if the person is at risk of immediate harm. The appointment also may be 'limited'to specified areas of decision-making. Guardians may be family members, friends, private nonprofit agencies, private for-profit agencies, public guardianship agencies, attorneys serving as guardian, financial institutions (for property decisions), or volunteers. Upon appointment, the guardian may be required to post a bond, and must submit periodic reports and accountings to court. A current 'best guess' national estimate of the number of adults under guardianship in the United States is approximately 1.5 million."
In this series of articles, we will explore the sordid and chilling details of what can best be described as the Guardianship Racket in the United States and what can be done about it.
In courts all over the United States, lawyers, judges, and professional guardians wage a merciless war on the rights and property of innocent Americans. The laws intended to protect the frail and poor among us have been perverted to allow sophisticated predators in court to illegitimately amass great fortunes at the expense of innocent victims and families.
The stories are so terribly sad. And outrageous. And terrifying.
But, they play out every day in probate courts around the country, particularly in states with large elderly populations like Florida, Texas, Colorado, and Washington. The stories that come out of probate courts are so horrific that they border on being incomprehensible. The abuse heaped on anyone who tried to stand in the way of this merciless system is equally horrific and unbelievable. Until it happens to you.
The “wards” and their families (the replacement name given to those who have been declared “incapacitated” by the court) are treated worse than murderers. They are forcibly separated from loved ones, they are chemically restrained with lethal handler drugs, and often moved from location to location under cover of night to prevent any contact with a loved one so as to maintain total sadistic control over an innocent’s life. Families often spend their entire life savings trying to rescue a loved one from guardianship, to no avail. The saying among the guardianship victims’ families is that there are only three outcomes—“you wind up broke, crazy, or dead.”
In the United States, there are more than 1.5 million “wards” at any given time. Thousands more are created every month in state probate court proceedings, and the number of new guardianships has been increasing by double digits nationally.
Court clerks who are tasked with auditing and watching out for fraud by the predators are overwhelmed. In almost every state, horror stories keep piling up, and lives are ruined, fortunes stolen, and families destroyed. It is a system that just does not pass the smell test. On any level, this is not how government is supposed to work. It is estimated that the money involved in guardianships exceeds 2-3 trillion dollars yearly!
Exposing this system is a challenge. Even though it is a real threat to anyone with assets of any kind, the court cases are called “mental health issues” and so are hidden from the public. Until you are targeted, you will never even hear of guardianship, but when it comes calling, with a knock on the door from a total stranger saying you are wanted in court in forty-eight hours for a hearing on whether you can manage your own affairs, it is already far too late.
When a judge hears a hired gun lawyer’s outrageous allegations—they do not need to be true or even provable—about how a frail person has been “exploited” or subjected to “undue influence” there is no hesitation to impose the “civil death sentence” of complete or “plenary” professional for profit guardianship. At that moment, the game is over. All the legal safeguards supposedly in place to protect us against abuse are suddenly perverted and unleashed against innocent victims and their families. At that moment the “ward” will have fewer rights than a serial killer.
We were taught that America was the home of the free and the land of the brave. I believed that we, as American citizens, had freedom; that our basic God-given rights were fully intact; that elder abuse was not tolerated; that state agencies were put in place to protect the elderly, not do them more harm.
What we have discovered is the exact opposite. We are not free. The state agencies in place to protect the elderly do not protect them. When we started researching elder abuse and guardianship, what we discovered had us reeling; how could I be so unaware of such a huge issue? After all, I read the newspapers, listen to the radio and watch the news. Shouldn’t such blatant criminal acts and travesties of justice be headline news? Isn’t kidnapping illegal? I still remember hearing about the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, an incident that happened in 1932, a story that is as ingrained in America’s history as all of the World Wars and the assassination of President Kennedy. So why is the kidnapping of the most vulnerable members of our society being ignored? Why is it allowed to go on? Why aren’t the criminals that perpetrate these acts in jail?
If you have questions about this important issue, email them to email@example.com
Sam Sugar MD is Founder and President of the 501c3 Foundation Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship in Hollywood Florida. He is a Board Certified Specialist in Internal Medicine and an expert, having analyzed and catalogued over 600 abusive guardianships nationwide since 2014. Find it at aaapg.net and on Facebook.