Legislation to regulate guardians and conservators in Michigan aims to reduce elder abuse

State Rep. Graham Filler discusses new bills designed to reduce cases of elder abuse in Michigan.
State Rep. Graham Filler discusses new bills designed to reduce cases of elder abuse in Michigan.(source: Michigan House Republicans)
Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 12:18 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - A plan to reduce cases of elder abuse in Michigan is translating into action.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and lawmakers from both major parties unveiled a package of eight bills Thursday designed to better regulate guardians and conservators appointed to take over the daily affairs of elderly residents.

The legislation was inspired by a report from Michigan’s Elder Abuse Task Force, which held hearings around the state and discussed possible solutions to the problem for over two years.

The bills would affect the process when a probate judge determines an elderly or disabled resident is incapacitated and no longer able to make informed decisions about their own well-being. Guardians care for their physical needs while conservators handle their financial affairs.

The state has seen many cases in recent years of guardians failing to provide adequate physical care of disabled residents and conservators stealing money from them.

The legislation announced Thursday would require guardians and conservators to obtain certification from the state, which includes a set of minimum standards and training. Family members still can be appointed to care for loved ones in both roles.

Some of the bills would impose protections of individuals under the care of a guardian before that person could remove them from their home.

“The legislation goes to the heart of protecting Michigan’s most vulnerable and ensuring that their civil liberties, autonomy and dignity are protected,” Nessel said. “These proposals help ensure our guardianship system provides vulnerable Michiganders with a true safety net, not a trap, and ensures our probate courts use guardianship only to combat, not enable, elder abuse.”

Republican State Rep. Graham Filler of DeWitt said additional safeguards in the bills include procedural safeguards for the appointment of guardians, special precautions to protect people’s property and increased transparency about how property is being used.

“I have always worked hard to enact legislation that protects our most vulnerable residents,” he said. “Our elder abuse task force has worked hard to identify the shortfalls with the system. I’m pleased to take the next step today as we introduce solutions that will protect seniors and vulnerable adults and make sure bad actors cannot take advantage of them.”

Filler, who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, plans to begin holding hearings on the bills later summer. The bills all have to pass the House and Senate before Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could decide whether to sign them into law.

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