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Better oversight for court-appointed guardians

Regarding the Nov. 30 front-page article “Guardian fees come under scrutiny”:

Court-appointed fiduciary guardians for the elderly owe the highest duty of accountability to people in their care. The question is how to make sure this duty is carried out.

The American Bar Association supports the new recommendations for good-guardianship practices, including how money may be spent and what fees can be charged, that were developed last year by the National Guardianship Network’s Third National Guardianship Summit. The recommendations urge that states certify guardians and strengthen court oversight. Courts should not only demand regular accountings but also scrutinize the accountings, watch for any “red flags” of misuse and send out investigators to check.

Courts need funding for oversight, but innovation can help as well. For example, some courts use trained volunteers as “eyes and ears” to report to the judge.

Perhaps most important, we all need to use advance-planning tools such as powers of attorney to avoid guardianship in the first place and have it used only as a last resort.

David M. English, Columbia, Mo.

The writer is chairman of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging.

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