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New Federal Law Helps Protect Seniors

Published December 1, 2017

Bipartisan legislation was passed by Congress and signed by President Trump to protect seniors from financial exploitation.

The Court-Appointed Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act passed Congress as part of the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act and was signed into law on October 18, 2017. The legislation, authored by U.S. Senators John Cornyn, R-Texas and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, strengthens accountability and oversight for guardians and conservators.

Under the new law, state courts may apply for funding from an existing program created to protect older individuals, and use the funding to assess the way the courts handle proceedings related to guardians and conservators, so that improvements can be made. Examples of potential improvements include electronic filing systems to keep tabs on guardianships and conservatorships, and the institution of background checks for guardians and conservators.

Financial elder abuse is a large and growing problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are more than 500,000 victims each year, and many other cases are believed to go underreported. The new legislations tackles one way that seniors may be exploited: by unscrupulous individuals using the guardianship or conservatorship relationship to take advantage of an older person. A 2017 study by the American Bar Association found that “an unknown number of adults languish under guardianship” when it is not necessary for them.

Sen. Cornyn said that the new law will better protects seniors from fraud and abuse by providing greater accountability for legal guardians.

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