Answer: Money, lots of money.
The concept of guardianship, parens patriae, originated centuries ago in England. It gave the government the authority to take responsibility for people who were deemed insane. Beginning in the 1980s in America statutes evil which attempted to deal with individuals who were either homeless or otherwise totally unable to care for themselves and who posed the threat of either violence or just an eyesore in a community. In the late 1980s professional guardianship evolved primarily in South Florida and eventually spread throughout the entire country and grew to the point where it now ensnares not people who are insane or threat to the community, but wealthy people who may be suffering from a range of illnesses which might just be temporary but whose lifetime accumulation of assets is an overwhelmingly tempting low hanging fruit for unscrupulous guardians and lawyers and the judges in front of whom they practice. It is now a national industry.
For-Profit Professional Guardianship (FPPG) is a powerful and aggressive, efficient smooth running machine engineered by the courts and driven at top speed by greedy well-dressed profiteers. It is an industry that functions with the singular unwavering goal of maximizing profits at the expense of the liberty, health, lives and rights of its victims. And any of us is fair game for its enormous reach. Stand in the way of this industry’s profits and you will be confronted with merciless abuse until you are broke, insane or dead. And there is no one to turn to. Websites, facebook and blogs are crammed with horror stories about this industry from across country and world. But public officials seem to have developed a peculiar deafness to such cries for help—many denying they have any knowledge about any such abuses despite ample evidence to the contrary. The deafness must be contagious since leaders in every level of government from local to federal have the same ailment. This despite clearly identifying the scope of threat as far back as 2003 http://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/266/urlt/guardianshipmonitoring.pdf
Every developed country in the world, and a majority of States in the USA struggle with the contradictions inherent in guardianship, but it is particularly ironic that the USA, land of the free, has spawned this most egregious and untouchable brand of legalized identity theft. It is no surprise that Florida, the number one state in almost all forms of fraud and human abuse, should be host to the most egregious operatives of this cruel abuse, though Colorado, Texas, California and New Mexico are not far behind.
The process depends on an alliance of judges, lawyers, guardians, banks, doctors, psychologists, social workers and so many others that all benefit from the ability to legally take power and lord over almost any family or individual with total impunity and the aegis of the court. Like a black hole, it ruthlessly devours entire families in an agonizing spiral of neglect, abuse, hopelessness, thievery and death.
It sounds like a creepy industry; it is creepy. But, in a broader perspective not easily appreciated by those in its grip it’s also pretty easy to analyze. It’s unlikely there’s a cabal that sits down and asks, “How can we kill more old folks tomorrow?” But, in a world filled with discord, six major industrial divisions —courts, lawyers, for profit guardians, medical professionals, lawmakers and law enforcement— work in perfect harmony using pretty much the same playbook to defend their “obligation and duty to protect the public from itself”. This playbook, copied from the tobacco industry, disregards and disdains civil rights and poses a greater immediate threat to our very existence than any communicable disease you can name.
All of these industry divisions want to make us believe they defend our “rights” — to be protected from abuse and neglect, to keep our money and possessions, to have good health, to have access to our loved ones, our choice of legal representation, — as matters of their responsibility. They even profess to protect us from family disputes that might upset a vulnerable senior. Their unified line is that anything that even smells like it could restrict those “rights” –especially when it comes to money in an estate that can be taken–requires their swift intervention. Once they intervene, they proceed to strip away civil rights– including even ones name– and replace them with a brutal slavery in which one is likely to horribly suffer and die after forfeiting all earthly possessions.
We should be asking “why is it necessary to take away our rights in order to protect those very rights”?
Parsing these divisions gives us a better way to look at the struggle of the victims and families, ordinary people, to regain their lives and prevent or escape from this nightmare.
Our protections should reside in the constitutions of our land. But the industry is both more politically influential and flusher with cash and power than the thousands of beleaguered individuals trapped in this cruel vortex.
Protecting civil rights is a fundamental government responsibility; a decent society should not tolerate slavery and lords nor should it allow the guardianship industry to place profits above human rights.
The power to break the grip of this industry should lie in the hands of the voting public. They can elect legislators and officials who would write laws to end the abuse. And that would matter if the industry obeyed the laws. Sadly, the industry brazenly ignores or simply violates the laws designed to protect our rights because no court or agency in Florida–or anywhere else– is willing to enforce them! The industry fully controls the three major Agencies that have the authority to police it—AHCA, Elder Affairs and Health plus of course, the Bar Association which writes the guardianship laws with hubris and impunity.
The front line agents of the industry, professional guardians are not even licensed so they cannot be threatened with loss of same; they need little or no talent or education to practice their craft, have no oversight and shield themselves with legal protection from the moment they are appointed from judges that often prejudge cases and litigants on the basis of their value to the industry.
This is a prime example of an unregulated and potentially unregulatable industry. This is despite the fact the industry is composed of high level regulators like judges and lawyers.
In such an unfettered environment, it easy to understand how altering records and documents, lying to the “court”, threatening interested parties, over-medicating wards with impunity, flipping wards’ houses, making discovery documents impossible to acquire, falsifying property values to resell them, falsifying billings, and other equally imperious behaviors can be so easily accomplished.
Court documents are not made available to “protect the identity of the Ward”. Money is looted to “protect the interests of the ward”. Families are threatened and bludgeoned to “protect the ward” from any stress that comes with visiting. The industry even protects the wards from death, by keeping them alive when death is imminent, so as to leave no asset unplundered during their reign.
The industry knows just how far it can go in a given county and it goes there. How else to explain the orders of magnitude difference in the numbers of guardianship complaints between Hillsboro county and Pinellas county, each of which is in a different circuit with different judges. Could it be that the judges are truly the drivers of this industry?
The outcome of such a desperate battle of a minuscule David against a monumental Goliath is predictable. Prior efforts by victims groups to challenge this industry have been dismal failures. Directed by individuals or very small groups of already wounded combatants who, against a well protected guardian or a particular lawyer, they have no chance of success because they are fought on Goliath’s battlefield—the courts—where Goliath has no weaknesses.
There should be no illusionary expectation that the industry has the slightest interest in reform. It pays ironic and disingenuous lip service to calls for reform, but like so many of our American institutions, has only its bottom line at interest—not the public’s rights.
AAAPG will continue to push back against this outrage with determination, legislation and will of the people for meaningful reform.