Minnesota: Weak Rules Govern Guardians

Social workers in Aitkin County had a problem: They needed someone to make decisions for three mentally impaired people who could no longer manage their own affairs. So in 2003, the county made a public appeal in the local newspaper.

Paul and Frances Peterson, who had no experience as guardians or conservators, offered their services. What followed was a failure of the state’s guardianship system that the county is still untangling seven years later.

Altogether, Aitkin County asked the Petersons to manage the affairs of five individuals, including three men with six-figure bank balances. After one of their wards died, the Petersons continued to write checks on his account, violating a court order and state law. The county had to give another wealthy ward $100 for food because the Petersons did not give him any of his money.

A district judge, who found numerous accounting problems, terminated their oversight in 2008 and subsequently ordered the Petersons to give back half of the $80,500 they paid themselves over five years. But the judge’s order is on hold because an appeals court said there were no clear guidelines on how much the Petersons could charge for their work.

To family members and advocates, the inability of the courts to hold the Petersons accountable shows how the state needs new tools to crack down on poorly performing guardians and conservators, who are unlicensed and virtually unregulated in Minnesota.

“There has to be a form of professional standards, regulatory oversight or sanctioning ability,” said Roberta Opheim, the state mental health ombudsman. “To me, it’s about people abusing their power and authority granted to them for a humane purpose.”

Opheim said there’s no limit on how many wards a guardian can oversee. Some guardians have as many as 40 people under their control, she said.

Peterson blamed complaints on hostile social workers, difficult family members and the erratic behavior of one ward. He said he and his wife’s big mistake was letting “ourselves get talked into doing it in the first place.”

William Hohenauer, a former ward who spent four years trying to get his money back, accused the Petersons of raiding his accounts. “They went in and took what they wanted for themselves,” he said. “The court let them get away with this.”

On June 17, six days after his interview with the Star Tribune, Hohenauer died of cancer. He was still waiting for his money.

Full Article and Source:
Weak Rules Govern Guardians

10 Responses to “Minnesota: Weak Rules Govern Guardians”

  1. timlahrman Says:

    >In the State of Indiana the Office of State Court Administration does not track guardianship proceedings at all. The only info they comile is total number of cases per year which is reproted to be some 5,500 to 7,200 guardianships established per year and as reported in 2004.Accordingly, the State Court Administration's poloicy concerning guardianship cases is this —- The case is both opened with the petition being filed, and the case is closed when a guardian is appointed or the petition is dismissed. [think about that, case opened and closed with the appointment] Indiana has 92 counties … that means 92 county courts are doing as they please with no oversight or guidance whatsoever. That is 92 different sets of rules, 92 different policies, 92 different beliefs on how to practice guardianship ….. talk about a crap shoot

  2. wisernow Says:

    >I am not at all surprised, this makes me sick. No oversight – no supervision, no audit or review conclusion is guardianship is a: FREE FOR ALL until a few cases are reported in the news media.Keep on exposing this stuff NASGA, maybe one day people will finally wake up when they figure it can happen to them or it hits their family and by then it's too late.

  3. StandUp Says:

    >No oversight and no accountability – and incompetent or corrupt judges at the helm of it all….

  4. Steve Says:

    >Don't forget, Sheila Gast, is from MN. Look how many victims had to fight for their loved ones against her..

  5. Anonymous Says:

    >This is like a national loto with guaranteed winning, with the WINNERS lining up to get their appointments approved and then it's yahooooooooo time open checkbook with no limits, no accountability, no boundaries open season 365 days a year. I wonder if the IRS is getting stiffed on their share of the take? Cause I know we the taxpayers are getting raped.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    >Some guardians have as many as 40 wards?Imagine the money they're stealing, I mean making.

  7. Betty Says:

    >You're right timlahrman, no one's keeping track. Could it be they don't want to because they don't want statistics known?

  8. Paul Says:

    >Greed has no low threshold.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    >Peterson should be forced to pay resitution.

  10. CK Says:

    >It is not just the guardians that are the problem in Minnesota. The so-called "County Social Workers" do not need to be licensed in Minnesota. They have all this power, but they do not have the education or license to back it up. It was the Social Workers in this MN case that put an ad in the local paper for the guardians and look what happened. If the people "in charge" are inept – this is what happens.

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