Legislation would crack down on elder abuse by strengthening oversight and accountability for guardians and conservators

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX) announced that their bipartisan legislation to help protect seniors from neglect and financial exploitation passed the Judiciary Committee, paving the way for a vote in the full Senate. The Court-Appointed Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act would help crack down on elder abuse by strengthening oversight and accountability for guardians and conservators. The bill is similar to legislation the senators introduced last year.

“Seniors deserve to live their lives safe from neglect and mistreatment and we need to do everything we can to help protect them from abuse,” Klobuchar said. “While most court-appointed guardians are professional, caring and law-abiding, there is mounting evidence that some guardians use their position of power to exploit seniors. This legislation would help increase accountability and oversight of guardians and protect those who are most vulnerable and I will continue to work to ensure the bill becomes law.”

“No one, certainly not our eldest citizens, should be subjected to physical abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation. It is my hope that we pass this bill and protect our vulnerable elderly citizens,” said Cornyn.

The senators’ legislation would provide support to states to implement programs to increase oversight of guardians and conservators. Specifically, the bill makes state courts eligible for an already existing program designed to protect seniors. Under the program, state courts would be able to apply for funding to assess the handling of proceedings relating to guardian and conservators, and then make the necessary improvements to their practices. For example, the courts could conduct background checks on potential guardians and conservators, or implement an electronic filing system in order to better monitor and audit conservatorships and guardianships. The legislation is supported by AARP, the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators, and the National Guardianship Association.

A report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified hundreds of allegations of physical abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation by guardians in 45 states and the District of Columbia between 1990 and 2010. The report reviewed 20 of these cases and found that guardians had stolen, or otherwise improperly obtained, $5.4 million from 158 incapacitated victims, many of whom were older adults.

Klobuchar has been a leader in helping to protect seniors from abuse and financial exploitation. In May, Klobuchar’s amendment to the immigration reform bill to help protect victims of elder abuse passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. The amendment would classify “elder abuse” as a crime for which a victim could seek a visa through law enforcement to prevent being forced to remain silent about abuse. Earlier this year, Klobuchar’s outreach staff held a “Senior Fraud Prevention Tour,” meeting with officials and organizations in communities across Minnesota to highlight efforts to protect seniors from fraud and financial scams.