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June 22, 2021
LANSING - "This package of bills is not just a good idea, it is a moral imperative," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told members of the House Judiciary Committee this morning as she testified on a bill package implementing fundamental reforms impacting guardians and conservators.
With bipartisan support, and if passed by the legislature, House Bills 4847, 4848, 4849, and 4850; and Senate Bills 503, 504, 505 and 506 will implement the remainder of the Elder Abuse Task Force's first initiatives.
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After a 12-stop listening tour in 2019 and dozens of senior town halls, Nessel and members of the Task Force heard a number of similar and disturbing stories surrounding guardianships and conservatorships.
While court-appointed guardianships can be beneficial for some, when used inappropriately or without the critical safeguards the bill package provides, guardianship itself can result in the abuse of older adults and strip individuals of their most basic rights.
"The bills, and our continued work in this area, are fundamental to restoring basic human rights and dignity to people who have worked hard their entire lives. Now, they need us to make sure that our guardianship and conservatorship system is in place to fight for them, and that is what this bill package does," said Nessel.
As part of her testimony, Attorney General Nessel brought attention to problems that the Department of Attorney General and partner organizations in the Task Force repeatedly see. To combat those issues, the legislation will:
- Require a judge to justify on the record why a family member who is willing to serve as a guardian is not suitable. While the law already provides that family members have priority, the modification serves as an additional safeguard to ensure family members get due consideration;
- Eliminate a judge's ability to prevent a challenge to an appointed guardianship/conservatorship for up to six months;
- Require guardian and conservator certification and visitation frequency;
- Establish a clear asset/income threshold for appointment of a conservator;
- Improve the basic standard for medical testimony; and more.
Nessel was joined by subject matter experts Christopher Smith - State Bar Elder Law & Disability Rights Section, Salli Pung - State Long Term Care Ombudsman, Nathan Piwowarski - Lake County Public Administrator, and Alison Hirschel and Nicole Shannon - Michigan Elder Justice Initiative. The group offered testimony on key sections of the legislation.
Each bill is linked below:
House Bills 4847, 4848, 4849, and 4850.
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Senate Bills 503, 504, 505 and 506.
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