There is Lack of Oversight on 1.3 Million Adult Guardianship and Conservatorship Cases Involving at Least $50 billion of Assets, Says National Council on Disability

Currently, an estimated 1.3 million persons are under guardianship or conservatorship, and the courts oversee nearly $50 billion of their assets, according to a 2018 National Council on Disability (NCD) report. However, only a handful of states actually track and report “reasonably reliable” data on conservatorships and guardianships.

“There’s no oversight, and there really is no data. And if you think about how scary that is, you know, to have people who have no rights, they’re in these guardianships that are potentially abusive, and there are no records being turned in, or they’re not keeping track of the accounting,” Marcia Southwick, director of the National Association to Stop Guardianship Abuse, told Insider. “You know, it’s rife with problems, and it’s ripe for abuse.”

For instance, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported that former Nevada guardian April Parks was sentenced to 16 to 40 years in jail in 2019 for exploitation, theft, and perjury.

“She was not a guardian to me,” said Barbara Ann Neely, one of the dozens of individuals in Parks’ care, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. “She did not protect me. As each day passed, I felt like I was in a grave, buried alive.”

According to Census Bureau forecasts, elderly adults will outnumber youngsters under the age of 18 for the first time in the United States by 2034. When combined with the shortage of direct care workers, these circumstances could result in an increase in court-appointed guardianships.

NCD identifies many systemic issues with the way courts handle guardianships, including a lack of information regarding alternative care, flawed due process, and a failure to supervise abuses.

“At the [guardianship] summit that I went to, the focus was really on also diverting it away from courts … because they’re overloaded with cases, courts can’t handle them, and that’s the reason for the lack of oversight. It’s not that all people are bad; it’s that the system is so inefficient that it allows the bad people to get away with it,” Southwick told Insider.

Britney Spears’ conservatorship struggle exposed the public to the slew of negative behaviors that guardianship entails, particularly its most pernicious manifestation: financial exploitation.