Establishing a guardianship might be the only option for people with emotional, psychological and physical conditions that leave them legally incapacitated. However, becoming a ward could make them prone to mistreatment and abuse from their guardian, resulting in damages, losses or further deterioration of their health.
Fortunately, the court could interfere if needed. Typically, a friend or family member or a government agency reports the mistreatment. Then, the court could respond with measures to manage the situation and reveal related evidence. Additionally, the judge could take the following actions to address guardianship issues, depending on how severe they are:
- Freezing or restricting assets: Courts order these measures to conduct investigations and prepare for the next stage of the process.
- Investigating the complaint and other allegations: Once an investigation is implemented, the judge will assign someone to serve as guardian ad litem while they review and audit assets relevant to the investigation.
- Enforce restoration of losses through repayment: Restoration of losses typically happens through the guardian’s bond imposed during their appointment. The court could also enforce orders if necessary.
- Reinstating visitation and communication rights: Guardians could isolate their wards as a form of abuse. In these situations, the court could enforce the ward’s right to freely communicate and interact with family, friends and others on their terms.
- Add a co-guardian or restrictions to the current guardian’s capabilities: Doing so could help diminish present forms of mistreatment.
- Removal of guardian: This is the most extreme resolution to guardian abuse. Petitioners could also recommend someone else to take on this role.
- Termination of guardianship: Sometimes, less restrictive alternatives could be applicable, allowing the court to end guardianship altogether.
Still, the appropriate course of action can significantly depend on the case details and investigation results. Sometimes, guardians could face state or federal charges based on their violations.
Holding abusive guardians accountable
Being a guardian can be challenging. However, the law must hold them accountable for committing any mistreatment, neglect or abuse to protect the rights of incapacitated wards.