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Ideal NJ guardian is one appointed by you

To protect and serve is the motto most people associate with law enforcement. There are some in New Jersey who might argue it should be the motto of all of government. Unfortunately, it doesn't always seem to work out that way.

Protecting and serving is at the heart of the job for guardianships and conservatorships. Because the job can be a challenge, involving acting in the best interest of someone who may be incapacitated, the ideal would be for every individual to name their own guardian. That doesn't always happen, either.

What sometimes happens with some elder citizens is that the state steps in and turns guardian duties over to an unknown third party and that can lead to issues. In Kane County, Illinois, the woman who had served as the public guardian for nearly a decade had racked up so many complaints that the governor ousted her earlier this month. He replaced her with an elder law attorney.

This guardian was appointed to the jog in 2003 by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Prior to getting the post, she had been a tennis pro in the area's park system. In her guardian role, she earned $100 an hour and the attorneys who supported her made up to $280 an hour.

Over the years she became the source of major frustration for those she served. She also became the focus of a series of articles in a local newspaper.

While many of the wards under her protection admitted they needed help, they complained that the woman was costly and unresponsive to their needs. Friends of wards said they had been blocked by the woman from having any contact with them. Lawyers working in the system complained, too, saying that it was too lax.

What may have been the last straw was a story in March about how the guardian handled one ward's estate. He had died in October and was still in the morgue four months later. When a cousin tried to have the man's body cremated, the guardian reportedly had it buried in a grave the cousin owned, without permission.  

Shortly after that, the governor ordered the woman out and nominated the attorney. The new guardian is expected to be approved by lawmakers later this month. She says her major focus will be to ensure clients and their loved ones more due process and less interference.

Source: The Beacon-News, "Next Kane public guardian pledges less interference," Denise Crosby, April 24, 2012

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