GAO Report on Abuse by Court Appointed Guardians

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recently released a report on a select examination of financial exploitation, neglect, and abuse of seniors. When an adult is found to be incompetent, a court may appoint a guardian of the estate who makes financial decisions for the incapacitated individual. The GAO sought to examine if alleged abuse of guardians is widespread, and to test state guardian certification processes. To determine if guardian abuse is widespread, the GAO interviewed advocates for seniors as well as court documents.

Guardian Abuse

The GAO found hundreds of cases of reported abuse by guardians from 1990 to 2010, the GAO concluded that their findings should not be interpreted as evidence that guardianship abuse is actually occurring on a widespread basis. Most of the allegations they identified involved financial exploitation and misappropriation of assets. Abuse allegations were directed at guardians taking advantage of wards by engaging in schemes that financially benefited the guardian but are financially detrimental to the ward under their care. Also, the allegations underscore that the victim’s family members often lose their inheritance or are excluded by the guardian from decisions affecting their relative’s care.

Guardian Certificaton

In a test of guardian certification processes, the GAO obtained guardianship certification from New York and North Carolina and met guardianship certification requirements for Illinois and Nevada using fictitious applicants. One of their fictitious applicants had a credit report that showed $30,000 in outstanding debt, and a repossessed car. None of the certification organizations in their tests checked the applicants credit history. Another applicant used a dead person’s Social Security number. Again, the state’s certification discovered the use of the deceased Social Security number.

Read Complete Report Here

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Elaine Renoire November 11, 2010 at 6:53 PM

NASGA’s growing membership of victims from all across the country is evidence that guardianship / conservatorship abuse is widespread. We appreciate the GAO’s report and hope it will lead to Senate hearings across the country.

Please view our white paper submitted to Congress in Dec. 2009, available at

Elaine Renoire

Randall J. Ryder January 17, 2011 at 11:17 AM

800-342-3720 or call 311 and ask to be connected to the hotline. THEY WILL NOT RELEASE YOUR NAME. In the alternative, you should contact the police.

Randall J. Ryder May 16, 2011 at 4:31 PM

This is a very unfortunate situation. I do not know all of the details, but it is not all that uncommon for children of aging parents to obtain a power of attorney to allow them to have control over assets. The Wall Street Journal has an excellent article on this issue. Note that Senator Kohl is attempting to create legislation that would make it more difficult for children to take financial advantage of their parents.

Angela Sciuto July 27, 2012 at 11:29 PM

I have a Guardian Ad Litem and she wont be there when i need her, says she to busy when i need something she goes against my wishes she says she is sick and tired of putting up with it even when i need help the most what do i do? Angela

Randall J. Ryder July 28, 2012 at 9:52 AM

Was the Guardian ad Litem appointed by a court?

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