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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Proposed law aims to protect vulnerable Minnesotans

Twin Cities readers may be interested to learn that two state lawmakers have recently proposed legislation that would impose more rigorous background check requirements for individuals seeking court appointments to serve as guardians or conservators. Minnesota's Attorney General supports the measure aimed at reducing the risk of financial exploitation of vulnerable adults.

The Attorney General referenced a disturbing case of misuse of funds by a court appointed guardian as an illustration of why the new law is necessary. A lawyer who was appointed to serve as a guardian for numerous adults after having her law license suspended pled guilty in February of this year to charges of criminal financial exploitation including allegations involving the theft of more than $22,000 from one client.

The former attorney is currently held at the Hennepin County Jail where she is serving a one-year sentence. Although she faced consequences for her actions, her breaches of the fiduciary duties of a guardian adversely affected at least four guardianship clients who may never see their money and assets returned.

The proposed legislation would expand the current system of background checks to discover whether a would-be guardian or conservator has ever had a professional license suspended or revoked. The law would require disclosure of prior bankruptcy, fraud charges and restraining orders. Background checks would become mandatory every two years as opposed to the five-year review required under current law.

In many cases, it can be difficult to recover misappropriated funds. Although an attorney experienced in probate litigation will know the best legal avenues for recovering stolen assets, prevention remains the best medicine when it comes to preserving the assets of vulnerable adults. The newly proposed legislation may represent a step in the right direction.

Source: Pioneer Press, "Minnesota attorney general wants deeper background checks on guardians," Katie Askew, Dec. 1, 2012

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