‘Incapacitated’ People’s Homes Are Being Sold by Their Guardians With Little Scrutiny

Vice News has this story, written by Rebecca Gibian and Scott Mulligan, on legal guardians in Florida selling the homes for profit of people in guardianship: 

“The knock on Jan Garwood’s door one afternoon was unexpected. Garwood had been through a lot in the last few years: She suffered a major car accident, one of her sons died, and a fall caused her major neck and head injuries. And then, someone—she still isn’t sure who—tipped off professional guardian Rebecca Fierle of Garwood’s precarious health, encouraging Fierle to file a petition to put Garwood into guardianship. A guardianship installs a surrogate decision-maker for people who, for whatever reason, can’t make choices about their life, including their finances, healthcare, and living arrangements, and the person who showed up at her Florida home that day in 2017 was her new guardian. They’d come to tell Garwood that she was now under guardianship—and to take away her house keys.

For the next three years, Garwood struggled to find a way out of the unwanted guardianship. During that time, she lost everything. Two years in, while Garwood was stuck in an assisted living memory ward, her house was sold to an employee from the facility where she was living, who was also related to an administrator there. . . . 

VICE News has identified over a dozen cases like Garwood’s in Florida public records from the last six years, of guardianship wards’ homes being sold for cheap in potentially shady deals. Sometimes the buyers were real estate agents who later flipped the home for a profit. In other cases, the houses were sold to the agent’s friends or family members. In each of these sales, the guardian profits because they’re paid out of the ward’s accounts. And while some guardians sell low out of negligence, others have been charged with committing fraud, and the entire process leaves rooms for personal profit making.

Advocates and experts claim that because of a lack of regulation at the state or federal level, the guardianship system is ripe for exploitation by guardians who want to profit off the people they’re supposed to be helping.”

Article →***

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