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Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Known Unknown

“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.”

-Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

This is the quote that sprang to mind when the Government Accountability Office’s recent report on Elder Abuse was released. The report tried to figure out how big of a problem elder abuse by guardians is, but there isn’t enough data to draw any meaningful conclusions about the extent of the problem. Abuse by guardians is a classic example of a known unknown.

It doesn’t take a government study to know that abuse by guardians is a problem. Many older adults, even here in the Carolinas, are the victim of emotional, physical, or financial abuse by their guardians. This is gut-wrenching because what happens is often quite cruel, and the behavior exhibited is often exactly what the guardianship relationship was supposed to protect against, not facilitate.

One way to protect against abuse is to keep the estate planning attorney that helped set up the guardianship involved in the relationship. The guardian-ward relationship is a legal creation, so there are formal legal steps that an attorney can take on behalf of a client to end the guardianship and protect the ward if abuse is suspected, so long as that power is granted to the attorney when the guardianship is created.  

Attorneys can also help put a bit of a check and balance system into place when a guardianship is created by separating the role of guardian into two distinct parts. The law recognizes two types of guardianships, guardianship of the person and guardianship of the estate or property. The guardian of the person looks after the physical and emotional well-being of the ward, while the guardian of the property takes care of financial issues. Having different people fill the two different roles can make it harder for abuse to go undetected since there is more than one person looking after the best interests of the ward.

As a known unknown, abuse is something we should take seriously, attempt to learn more about, and try to find a way to stop.

 


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Monk Law Firm, PLLC assists clients throughout Charlotte, Rock Hill, Fort Mill and the surrounding areas.



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| Phone: 803-594-4453
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| Phone: 704-369-9977

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