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Department of Attorney General Testifies in Support of Guardianship and Conservatorship Reforms

LANSING – Today, Scott Teter, Division Chief of the Department of Attorney General Financial Crimes Division and head of the Elder Abuse Task Force, testified before the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety Committee in support of House Bills 4909, 4910, 4911, and 4912, announced Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. The bill package is a first step to implementing reforms to Michigan’s guardianship statutes.

“I’ve seen firsthand how Michigan’s guardianship and conservatorship system has failed vulnerable adults in our state,” Nessel said. “I am glad some improvements are being made, but we can’t stop here. I will continue to push for the long-awaited reforms as recommended by our Elder Abuse Task Force, which will help create a system that truly treats all Michiganders with the dignity, compassion, and autonomy they deserve.”

"A system that ignores the rights of vulnerable adults and dehumanizes them and ignores the concerns of family members doesn’t do justice and must be changed,” Teter said. “There are common-sense reforms in these bills that are long overdue that will help fix a broken system, but we are not done yet and have more work to do.”

Teter’s testimony highlighted specific concerns the Department, the Elder Abuse Task Force, and their partners face under the current system. To address these issues, the proposed legislation will:    

  • Require the court to make findings of fact if a person with priority for appointment, such as a family member, is passed over in favor of a professional guardian;
  • Establish a clear asset and income threshold above which the appointment of a conservator is required; 
  • Require guardian and conservator letters of authority to expire after 15 months;
  • Clarify and expand the guardian ad litem’s responsibilities;
  • Improve protections for wards when professional guardians seek to remove them from their homes;
  • Require professional guardians to file petitions seeking court authority to move wards;
  • Require courts to appoint guardians ad litem or, where appropriate, counsel for wards and to schedule hearings before authorizing moves to new residences;
  • Improve basic standards for medical reports that are used in guardianship and conservatorship hearings;
  • Refine the process for emergency petitions for guardianship/ conservatorship to ensure an actual emergency exists; and more.

In his testimony, Teter encouraged legislators to also adopt legislation that would create family consent laws and PPOs for elder/vulnerable adults and gave an overview of the guardian certification initiative.

The Department also supported Senate Bill 656 which would restrict the type of investments a conservator can invest estate property in. The bill requires the conservator to invest in accordance with the Michigan prudent investor rule and if the conservator invests estate property in securities that the conservator only invests with a brokerage firm that is insured by the United States Securities Protection Corporation. The bill also prohibits the conservator from investing estate property in cryptocurrency.

Michigan's Elder Abuse Task Force launched in 2019 and consists of more than 55 different organizations in the public, private and nonprofit sections - all working together to combat elder abuse. The more than 100 individuals on the Task Force are divided into seven committees working diligently to accomplish nine initiatives, including more wholesale reforms, including requiring certification and training for professional guardians.

Achievements include the adoption of a Vulnerable Adult Incident Report form for investigations by law enforcement across the state, including the implementation of related trainings. In addition to the vulnerable adult incident report and associated trainings, the Financial Exploitation Prevention Act was passed that ensures mandated reporting for financial institutions on suspected fraud or exploitation. Financial advisors and securities brokers were also added as mandatory reporters in a separate law. The Uniform Power of Attorney Act was passed and is effective July 1, 2024, to make powers of attorney more accessible with a standard form in the statute.  

More than 73,000 older adults in Michigan are victims of elder abuse. They experience abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Michigan residents seeking elder abuse resources are encouraged to call 800-24-ABUSE (22873), or 855-444-3911 to report suspected elder abuse.


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