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Dr Sam Sugar, Founder, Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship Dr Sam Sugar, Founder, Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship

As a result of an increased awareness of the issues in professional guardianships brought brought about by AAAPG, other advocacy groups and dedicated citizens around the country, there is a lot of light being shone on the exploitation of seniors in guardianship and what to do about it.

In Nevada a police officer. Lt. James Melton has been arrested for conspiring with notorious guardian April Parks to run her infamous racket exploiting the elderly and their families in Las Vegas. Also, legislation creating the Nevada Guardianship Compliance Office took effect January 1, 2018. The Commission to Study the Administration of Guardianships in Nevada’s Courts proposed seven major reforms, including the Nevada Guardianship Compliance Office, resulting in five bills approved in the Legislature and signed by Governor Brian Sandoval. Creation of the Nevada Guardianship Compliance Office, a Guardianship Bill of Rights, and mandatory appointment of legal counsel for persons in need of protection were all enacted by legislation spurred on by advocacy.

In New Mexico dedicated advocates organized by our own Kelly Smoot Garrett has done all they possibly could to influence the creation of new guardianship laws in that state. While their efforts did not produce the kind of reform that would actually lead to less guardianships, new laws have been put in place that do at least contain some relief from the egregious sequestration and visitation aspects of prior New Mexico statutes. In New Mexico we have an excellent example of how an attentive press, in this case the Albuquerque Journal and others, can have a profound effect and calling attention to guardianship abuse and the need for legislative and law enforcement relief.

In Indiana, a new online registry that aims to protect elderly people and others in Indiana from being financially exploited by their court-appointed guardians is now being used by courts in more than half of the state’s counties. The registry helps courts monitor guardianship cases to help protect people who are unable to manage their personal and/or financial affairs.

In the Arts, the Laura Checkoway short film “Edith and Eddie” with Executive Produce Cher, produced by Tom Wright –a longtime supporter of AAAPG–, a story about the love between two elderly people that was destroyed by a guardianship that forced them apart and ultimately resulted in tragedy has been nominated for and appears to be the front runner for an Academy Award.

Personally, I am very hopeful that the publication of my book “Elder Guardianship-the Perfect Crime” will bring even more attention to the crisis of abusive guardianship in America when it is released this spring.

While we work tirelessly to expose the guardianship industry for what it is, the issue of what to do about it remains unanswered. While advocates have driven the passage of some visitation laws reform, legislative fixes have proven to be ineffective in curbing what appears to be the insatiable appetite of court insiders for the low hanging fruit of estates that fall into their laps via the guardianship machine. Despite promises from law enforcement at the highest levels, convincing authorities that serious crimes are being committed in guardianships has proven nearly impossible. There may be some hope with the formation of the elder justice task force which is charged with collecting information and reports on guardianship abuse going forward.

We stand ready to present any law enforcement entity the over 800 cases that we have compiled and fully documented over the last decade, but so far despite this largest single collection of completely documented cases in history, no government agency has been willing to accept them.

Finally,  on a more personal level, the number of new cases being called into our 800-number has accelerated dramatically. As always, the stories are utterly heartbreaking. The devastation is incredible. The destructiveness of this all-powerful unchecked unmonitored system of wealth extraction and misery creation is something that even after all these years I find to be almost unbelievable. While AAAPG is able to assist with information, counseling, public demonstrations, pathways to appropriate reporting to responsible agencies and government, surveys and a host of other attempts to help, the monolithic nature of the guardianship beast overpowers individuals and families every time and at the moment our best advice remains to prevent every guardianship possible.

All of us who work on behalf of our organization are committed to finding a way to bring about the changes in Court practice that will result in a system that actually helps individuals who need it rather than victimizing them.