Nursing Homes Using Guardianship over Residents for Bill Collection

nursing homes using guardianship, Wheaton Estate Planning LawyerA recent report in The New York Times should serve to reinforce just how crucial it is for people to have estate planning documents in place while they are still healthy and able to make decisions for themselves, including a health care power of attorney and a financial power of attorney.

According to the report, several nursing homes are using the legal tactic of seeking guardianship over residents in an effort to gain control of the residents' finances, essentially using the guardianship petition as a method of bill collection.

Although laws do allow for nursing homes to file for guardianship in cases where a resident is incapacitated and is either being taken advantage of financially by other relatives, or where there are no relatives or anyone else appointed to protect the person's interest, the report cites case after case where nursing homes filed petitions for guardianship, but with no reason—the facility was trying to gain control of a resident's money.

In one documented case, a 95-year-old woman, who had savings of $240,000, was placed in a nursing home after being in a rehabilitation center for treatment because there had been a fire at her apartment and she was unable to go home. The woman did not have any relatives. At one point, her physician declared that she was not competent to make financial decisions. However, the nursing home in which she resided ignored her physician and told the woman that she needed to give them a check for $50,000, which she did. It was not until sometime later, when the woman refused to write any more checks to the nursing home, did the nursing home apply for guardianship. The judge who oversaw the guardianship case appointed a third-party as guardian and instructed the guardian to investigate and proceed with possible criminal charges against the nursing home for financially exploiting the woman.

In Illinois, residents of nursing homes are protected under the Nursing Home Care Act. Under the law, "a resident shall be permitted to manage his own financial affairs." This law also applies to residents who have already appointed someone as legal guardian, or at the very least, has given someone power of attorney to manage their affairs.

If you have yet to sit down and make plans for your future, it is essential that you contact an experienced Wheaton estate planning attorney to help ensure that your assets are protected in the event you become incapacitated. Make sure you are the one who gets to decide who should have legal control over your medical, personal, and financial care. Call 630-665-2500 today.