If you don’t have an estate plan, the government’s going to prepare one for you, and you might not like it. This article explains that when you don’t appoint a agent with a power of attorney or a successor trustee who can act for you when you start to fade, the government will appoint someone to manage you and your affairs. The person is likely to be someone you don’t know who is a professional guardian. Too often, according to the article, the guardians fleece, abuse, or otherwise take advantage of the seniors and their money. They can tell you where you’ll live, how much money you can spend, and make other decisions for you. It’s better to do the hard work of selecting someone to take over for you and working with them in advance.
Hundreds of cases followed the same pattern. It had become routine for guardians in Clark County to petition for temporary guardianship on an ex-parte basis. They told the court that they had to intervene immediately because the ward faced a medical emergency that was only vaguely described: he or she was demented or disoriented, and at risk of exploitation or abuse. The guardians attached a brief physician’s certificate that contained minimal details and often stated that the ward was too incapacitated to attend a court hearing. Debra Bookout, an attorney at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, told me, “When a hospital or rehab facility needs to free up a bed, or when the patient is not paying his bills, some doctors get sloppy, and they will sign anything.” A recent study conducted by Hunter College found that a quarter of guardianship petitions in New York were brought by nursing homes and hospitals, sometimes as a means of collecting on overdue bills.
It often took several days for relatives to realize what had happened. When they tried to contest the guardianship or become guardians themselves, they were dismissed as unsuitable, and disparaged in court records as being neglectful, or as drug addicts, gamblers, and exploiters.