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Adults Facing Guardianship Need Adequate Legal Representation, AARP Tells Congress

Gavel And Striking Block Over Guardianship Law Book
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En español | AARP is backing legislation that would help states train and recruit law students to represent adults facing guardianship proceedings in court.

More than 1.3 million adults in the U.S. are living under court-ordered guardianship because they are unable to manage their own affairs. These adults may lose the ability to make decisions about where to live, how to spend their money or how to treat an illness. They may even lose their right to get married or vote.

Because so much is at stake, AARP is endorsing the Guardianship Grant Flexibility Act, sponsored by U.S. Sens. Mike Braun (R-Indiana) and Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania). The legislation would allow states to use federal grants for programs to train and recruit law students to help these adults, either by providing legal representation or becoming court-appointed guardians ad litem, representing their best interests. The programs would be administered through law clinics supervised by a licensed attorney, according to the bill’s sponsors.

“Unfortunately, many people subject to guardianship proceedings cannot afford to hire attorneys to represent them, and states do not have adequate funding to provide representation,” Bill Sweeney, AARP senior vice president for government affairs, wrote in a letter endorsing the legislation. “These individuals are too often left without a voice in the system, or an advocate to protect their rights.”

Often, guardians are family members or friends, but public guardians are appointed when no one else is willing to serve in the role. While many guardians do their job well, over the years, cases of abuse, mismanagement and conflicts of interest have also made headlines around the country.

That’s why AARP has long called for stronger oversight of these arrangements, and the use of less restrictive alternatives, such as power of attorney agreements, when possible. We’ve successfully pushed to reform state guardianship systems in Virginia, Florida, Alabama and other states.

Read our endorsement letter and learn more about AARP’s legal and financial resources for caregivers.

Also of Interest:

A Caregiver’s Guide to Conservatorship: What It Is and How to Get One
Building a Support System for Adult Disabled Children
Elder Financial Abuse: Stopping Fraud in the Family

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