Who are the Gatekeepers
There may seem to have been ample words describing those professionals involved to establish a SNT, lawyers. Guardians and conservators, and many more however lets take a closer look. Although we have touched on the ‘key’ players, there are so many we have not even touched on. And as we look at each new player in the legal workings we will see the true length of our courts.
Families sometimes know that a special provision must be made for a member who is incapable of make financial or medical decisions in their life. This is a case of all involved coming to a consensus for the best welfare of their family member. However, other times and especially as our population is aging, things happen out of our control. There are ‘Gatekeepers’ within our community who watch out for the welfare of those seeming to be in need. They are called ‘mandatory reporters’ these people within the working community that have the ear of the investigators. The investigators and/or reporters are teachers, law enforcement, lawyers, medical personnel, bankers or other financial personnel, Adult Protective Services, even clergy - which lists only a few. Of all of these we know what they do and how they are connect with the process. Anyone of them can call APS (Adult Protective Services). APS visit can or will constitute a referral to the Superior Court System. The court will begin the investigative process ordering a Guardian Ad Litem being placed to over see the individual’s affairs, during the investigative process. Remembering that one of the Gatekeepers is medical personnel should the Medical doctor, nursing staff or treatment personnel have a concern many times this will skip the APS step and go straight to the legal system.
As this scenario is playing out the individual does not have the ability to make financial or medical decisions for themselves. The person must rely on a legal person who knows very little if anything about them. Best case is if the person is in a nursing home as so many decisions are already documented, worst case is a person is visited, in their home, by a member of APS and the referral begins there. This is the worst case only because the person obviously feels they are capable of making the decisions that are being questioned. And let’s face it, I may not agree with a decision that Charlie makes, but this very possibly does not mean Charlie is incapable of make a decision within his own life. In our country we have the right to make a bad decision. Making a bad decision is one person’s folly and another’s crown and glory.
The person going through these proceeding is frightened and in many cases does not understand. Not all APS personnel have the empathy and understanding to provide compassion in these cases. Also, not every law enforcement person has the strength to stand up and provide the necessary structure to help a person who is unable to protect him or herself. There is a very fine line between who needs help and who is making bad choices. Our courts system does not want to invade someone’s space and suspend his or her rights under the law.
This is a lengthy process not less than three months and can many times drag out for six to eight months. Establishing the answer if a person is requiring a guardian or conservator is the many times, most times a necessary step in then capturing the financial assets for a SNT. After all, we cannot capture and hold someone’s financial assets if they are competent to address the use of said funds.
So to put all this is a nutshell, a court ordered investigation is necessary to establish the competence of a person. A Gatekeeper is the first person to contact the legal custodians and from there the process is straightforward. If you or a loved one is the object of this process the Guardian Ad Litem is your first point of contact. And that person can guide you through the process.
Next week we will look at some of the difficult decision to be made when aging and no longer able continue some activities within our communities.