"We need to root out as many of those bad apples ... as we can," said Rep.
Conservators appointed by state probate courts are handling financial matters for an estimated 20,000 elderly, disabled and mentally ill
Preventing abuse by these court-appointed conservators -- some of whom have stolen tens of thousands of dollars from the elderly and mentally ill people they swore to protect -- is the goal of the probate reform bill.
"There is no more important responsibility ... than the duties of a conservator," Knierim said Monday. He said that the vast majority of
Proposed reforms include random state audits of conservator accounts and tougher ethical standards.
Knierim said in the past five years, the probate system has seen a 58 percent increase in the number of mental health cases requiring conservators.
This isn't the first effort to reform the probate system. Knierim said legislation was passed in 2007 to give probate judges authority to order audits of questionable conservator accounts.
The new legislation has been triggered in part by recent high-profile cases of conservators stealing money from the people they were appointed to help.
Last August, a 67-year-old disabled man from
Fritz, whose family began noticing in 2012 that his finances were being drained away, has recovered
At Monday's hearing, one harsh critic of
If passed by the
The Democratic co-chairs of the legislature's judiciary committee, Rep.
"The risk of abuse is too high," Tong said, "and we must take steps to make sure that conservators ... are held to the highest ethical and fiduciary standards."
Doyle said the closing in recent years of institutions caring for the mentally ill has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of people with mental health issues needing the help of conservators.
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