The following Letter to the Editor of the Palm Beach Post was written by Sharon R Bock, Clerk and Comptroller of Palm Beach County, Florida:
Guardianship laws still weak in state
In 2010, the Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller’s Office launched its Guardianship Fraud Program and hotline. Through its Division of Inspector General, more than 2,800 guardianship cases — with assets totaling more than a half-billion dollars — are subject to an extensive audit.
To date, this office has uncovered more than $4 million in unsubstantiated disbursements, missing assets and fraud. As our county’s senior population continues to rise, there will be a corresponding increase in guardianship cases — predicted to be about 15 percent, or 400 cases, per year.
Because of this success, it became my mission to strengthen statewide guardianship laws. These efforts led to the passing of House Bill 635 in 2014, which enables clerks statewide to audit and investigate fraud or financial exploitation in guardianship cases.
On June 10, Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 5: Guardianship Proceedings. This law calls for more transparency, independence and accountability in court proceedings that affect wards under guardianships. This is another step toward increasing protection for our most vulnerable citizens.
Nevertheless, there is still work to be done. Guardianship fraud needs to remain in the forefront of our conversation.
Anyone who suspects guardianship fraud (in Palm Beach County, Florida) can call ; email email@example.com; or visit www.mypalmbeachclerk.com/fraud.
SHARON R. BOCK, WEST PALM BEACH