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How judges, probate attorneys, and guardianship orgs abuse the vulnerable

Photo: Photos by Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Photos by Michael Barajas

Joy Powers woke from a horrific car wreck to find she'd been appointed a guardian and stripped of her rights. Months later, court-appointed fees drained her life savings

Photo: , License: N/A

A Bexar County court twice investigated whether Jack Hood was incapacitated when he contested a guardianship case involving his wife of 35 years.


By phone, Marie Bergman said, "I was only allowed to visit one hour with my daughter. Now I'm not allowed to see her at all."

Valdez and others in her corner insist the courts need greater oversight from the state to ensure the vulnerable and elderly aren't forced into nursing homes or institutionalized without first considering all least restrictive options first, truly making guardianship a last resort. And private guardianship programs need to be ended or closely watched, Valdez insists, saying deep reforms are needed to make sure guardianships are about protection, not money.

Judge Spencer says there's the need to create a guardianship program in Bexar County, something akin to Tarrant County's Guardianship Services Inc., to better manage exploding caseloads. "We've been having an active conversation about creating something like that." But guardianship reform activists have warned that Tarrant County's model, which began as a volunteer program to help the old and vulnerable, quickly grew into a troubling coalition of judges, attorneys, care providers and quasi-governmental nonprofit employees as detailed by previous Fort Worth Weekly stories by Jeff Prince.

Spencer says she understands the concern. "But those concerns only address kind of the way the programs have been effectuated, not the fact that it is a needed program. I think almost anybody would agree with that."

Almost anybody.

*Originally reported as the court cut her disbursement to $5,000. The Current regrets the error.

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