A Nebraska law designed to prevent abuse of vulnerable citizens by their guardians has gone too far, according to Margaret Smith of Broken Bow, and she wants it repealed.
“This law is very cruel and unnecessary,” Smith said. “It made no allowances for people who had been married for a lifetime. It has the same regulations as if being a guardian for someone you didn’t even know.”
LB157, also known as the Guardianship Reform Act of 2011, passed unanimously in the Nebraska Legislature. The author of the bill was District 27 Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln. Gov. Dave Heineman signed the bill in February 2011, and it took effect in January.
Margaret has been the guardian for her husband, Bob, since March 2006 when he was hurt while working at a cattle sale in Broken Bow. He hit his head on the concrete and even though he regained consciousness two months later, he remains physically and mentally disabled and lives in a nursing home.
At the time of the accident, Margaret already had power of attorney for her husband’s medical care, but because he couldn’t sign his name to grant her power of attorney over his finances, she did the only other thing she could — she got a guardianship of him. With that, she could continue to manage the couple’s business.
In February, when Margaret went to the judge’s office to turn in her annual report regarding her husband’s condition, she was given a large stack of papers containing new regulations and forms she needed to fill out.
“I got as far as the paragraph that said I would need a court order to take any money out of our joint accounts and took it all to my attorney,” Margaret said.
Some of the 16 mandates of LB157 include that funds of the guardian and ward should not be co-mingled. A guardian will take no money out of the shared accounts by any means, for any purpose without a court order, and guardians are required to use specific forms downloaded from the Nebraska Supreme Court’s website. In addition, guardians are required to pay a $5 fee to file required reports.
Until this law passed, Margaret said she didn’t have a problem. Now she said believes she needs a court order to buy a tube of toothpaste from the joint bank account she shares with her incapacitated husband.
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Broken Bow Woman Fighting Guardianship Law