Elder Law Practice News

Now, a coalition of large Minnesota nonprofits is developing a less-intrusive alternative. With a $1 million federal grant, Volunteers of America of Minnesota and Wisconsin will lead a group of social service agencies in building a way to protect vulnerable adults while respecting their dignity and preserving their rights against overzealous guardians. And instead of relying on overburdened courts, the new system will connect people like Allen with relatives and teams of social workers who have expertise in caring for people with disabilities.

Advocates predict that if the model catches on, hundreds of Minnesotans could regain control over such basic decisions as where to live, whom to date and how to spend their money.

“This has the potential to be a revolutionary approach,” said Anita Raymond, project director at Volunteers of America. “We are seeking to change the culture in Minnesota of defaulting to the use of guardianship.”

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Professor Jennifer Wright is recognized with the Mary Alice Gooderl Award at the Elder Law Institute.
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In a 2010 report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found hundreds of allegations of physical abuse, neglect and financial exploitation by guardians in 45 states and the District of Columbia between 1990 and 2010. Guardians also stole $5.4 million in assets from their wards in that period, the GAO said. (The GAO is currently working on an updated report.)

As the boomer population moves into old age, the numbers of people affected by guardianship and conservatorship will rise “tremendously,” said Jennifer Wright, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis who directs the school’s Elder Law Practice Group.

“There are more of us who are going to enter the danger age,” she said.

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More adults will be at risk of abuse as boomers enter 'the danger age.' Prof. Jennifer Wright, Director of the Elder Law Practice Group, speaks with Next Avenue.

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