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How to avoid being assigned a legal guardian

Written by Diane Archer

In 2017, Rachel Aviv wrote a story for the New Yorker on how an older couple in Nevada ended up with a legal guardian against their will. The story is chilling and worth reading. It helps to reinforce the point that every adult should identify an agent, someone they trust, to have durable power of attorney over their financial affairs, along with a health care proxy, someone they trust to ensure their health care wishes are honored.

In Aviv’s story, the couple were managing fairly well on their own, with the help of their daughter who visited them most afternoons. But, a seemingly unscrupulous certified legal guardian in Nevada was able to go to their doctor and secure the documentation she needed to get a judge to determine that the couple was not able to make responsible decisions about their care or property and appoint her as their legal guardian. With that appointment, the guardian went to the couple’s home and, against their will, moved them out and took over their finances.

Their daughter was shocked not to find them at home later that day and spent almost two years securing their freedom from the legal guardian. By that point though, the guardian had upended their lives and spent their life savings. If the older couple had given their daughter durable power of attorney and named her as their health care proxy, this would not have happened.

Legal guardians can gain control over people’s finances and health care. And, the guardians can charge for every service they deliver. There are 1.3 million people in the US who have been assigned legal guardians today. When they do their job appropriately, they can provide a valuable service. But, some of them behave unscrupulously, like the guardian in Aviv’s story.

John Oliver tells a story about guardianship in the US and ends his tale with a group of older celebs explaining why we all need health care proxies and durable powers of attorney. It is well worth watching, in whole or you can skip to 12:50.

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