The state of Florida is cracking down on bad actors in the professional guardianship industry, hoping the latest reform bill, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in March, will protect seniors from guardianship abuse.
Last Friday, the Florida State Guardianship Association (FSGA) met in Fort Lauderdale for their 2016 Annual Conference, where officials discussed recently passed SB-232, based on the guardianship audits performed by the Clerk & Comptroller in Palm Beach County for the last 25 years.
"Historically, the clerks have had the statutory obligation to monitor the guardianship's financial information," Clerk Sharon Bock, from the Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptroller, said. "In 2013, that was enhanced to be able to actually investigate and audit and get down really in the nitty-gritty of these files."
Now that the Clerk of Courts is partnering with the Department of Elder Affairs, however, Bock said the new law fills that hole by requiring a collection of that information all in one place.
"That gap has now closed," Bock said. "We will now, through our partnership with the state, be reporting the outcome of our investigations and audits."
"There are sometimes some bad apples," Secretary Sam Verghese, from the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, said. "What we've sought to do with the legislature has been to fix some of those gaps that have been there, so that if there is someone who's being taken advantage of from abuse, neglect, exploitation, financial fraud, there's a way to actually go after the bad apples so more people aren't hurt."
In creating the Office of Public and Professional Guardians (OPPG) within Department of Elder Affairs, the passing of SB-232 requires that the OPPG provide monitoring and disciplinary oversight of professional guardians, including the ability to revoke a guardian's registration. It also establishes a complaint department for families and those in guardianships, and certifies and supervises court-appointed guardians.
This is in addition to HB-5, which was signed into law last year in order to make it more difficult for guardians to seize control of their wards' assets.
"This in fact will stop, or we hope will deter the kind of unethical and fraudulent practices that we may have seen in the past," Bock said.
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Call Christina: Professional Guardianship Laws Expanding to Protect Seniors from Exploitation