Editorial: Protect Against Nebraska Guardianship Abuses

In 2010, a World-Herald investigation found that more than 12,400 incapacitated Nebraskans rely on a guardian to oversee their health, a conservator to handle their financial matters or a guardian-conservator to handle both.

In some instances, The World-Herald reporting uncovered troubling abuses. Especially outrageous was the case of Dinah Turrentine-Sims, a court-appointed guardian-conservator who stole more than $400,000 from eight of her wards in Douglas County.

In response, a state task force proposed sensible changes. Key tools included requiring background checks, bond insurance for estates over $10,000 and quicker cataloging of assets. In 2011 the Legislature included those as part of a practical reform package, and the Nebraska judges and court personnel have worked hard to implement the needed safeguards.

In his annual State of the Judiciary address to the Legislature last week, Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican said the increased monitoring under the reforms “has uncovered further instances of theft and misuse of funds by guardians and conservators.”

In addition, he said, the Supreme Court is creating a permanent Commission on Guardianships and Conservatorships to provide an ongoing vehicle for maintaining the focus on this important issue.
A cautionary note is needed on one of the chief justice’s points, however. He said the new requirements involving guardianship forms and procedures have increased the workload of court staffers, and the Supreme Court is working with the Nebraska State Bar Association to see how the process can be simplified.

No one doubts the hard work by Nebraska’s courts, and if practical ways can be found to help court staff without lessening the safeguards to protect incapacitated Nebraskans, fine. But there needs to be no doubt on what the priority should be: maintaining the full strength of the protections for these vulnerable citizens, as set forth in the 2011 reform legislation.

World-Herald Editorial:  Protect Against Nebraska Guardianship Abuses

See Also:
Nebraska: Chief Justice:  Guardianship Initiates Show Success


3 Responses to “Editorial: Protect Against Nebraska Guardianship Abuses”

  1. Thelma Says:

    Good news from Nebraska.The time problem can be overcome by today's hi-tech solutions, with necessary grants for initiating computer controls.

  2. Abby Says:

    12,400 in guardianship? That seems extremely high.

  3. Finny Says:

    Good editorial!

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