For families and friends of the elderly in Minnesota, it is important to stay vigilant and aware of what is going on in their lives. Even if people appear to have the best intentions, each week a new story details another case of financial exploitation or undue influence of vulnerable adults. As one recent story highlights, those who are granted guardianship of an elderly relative can sometimes take advantage of the situation for their own benefit, harming others in the process.
Earlier this month, a woman pled guilty to credit card fraud after spending over $30,000 of her aunt's money. The woman sought and obtained guardianship over her elderly relative in January 2011, which gave the younger woman access to her aunt's bank accounts. The niece promptly moved over $170,000 dollars into her own accounts, eventually purchasing sunglasses and new tires for her vehicle.
While this is a criminal case, it highlights the need for those involved in the lives of the elderly to keep watch on affairs. Unfortunately, many older people lack the capacity to deal with all of the aspects of daily life, making the elderly reliant on those directly caring for them.
In Minnesota, someone can obtain authority over another person's affairs as either a guardian or conservator. A guardian is granted powers only over those things necessary to ensure proper care, while a conservator has power over the person's estate and financial affairs. Both positions are appointed by the court and can require court oversight to ensure there is no abuse. Either way, the guardian or conservator owes the person he or she is serving a fiduciary duty -- guardians and conservators cannot make certain decisions purely for self-gain.
Source: TriCities.com, "Gray woman pleads guilty to stealing more than $30K from elderly woman," Feb. 9, 2012