By Ellen Mason, Hotline Attorney
A Detroit television station recently investigated the case of an elderly woman who had been placed in a nursing facility by her court-appointed, attorney guardian.
Every time the son visited his mom, she was wearing the same dress. Her hair was dirty, and she said that she was hungry. Finally, the son had had enough. He visited his mom every day for two weeks and took pictures of his mom and pictures of her room every day. He made notes about what he found every day. He contacted the television station. They researched the situation and found that the nursing home was not licensed: the nursing home was operating illegally. When the television station contacted the woman’s guardian, the guardian admitted that she had never visited the nursing home. The guardian said that she was too busy to visit because she was a guardian for 200 people.
So what is a guardian’s responsibility? A guardian is responsible for the day-to-day “care and custody” of an incompetent person. The guardian must keep the person safe, provide adequate food and housing for the person, follow any order of the court, and file an annual written report with the court.
What could the son have done besides contacting a television station? First, he did absolutely the right thing by documenting the conditions under which his mother was living. Second, he (or any interested person) could send a letter to the probate court (that is, the court that appointed the guardian) asking for:
- The removal of the guardian;
- A change in the guardian’s duties;
- An end to the guardianship; or
- The appointment of a different guardian (modification).
The letter should contain:
- Enough information for the court to know what case the letter is about (a case number is helpful but not necessary); and
- Information about why the person is requesting an end to the guardianship.
After the court receives the letter, the court must:
- Set a hearing date;
- Notify the ward of the hearing date.;
- Notify the ward’s spouse, parents, and adult children of the hearing date;
- Notify the guardian of the hearing date; and
- Notify any attorney of record of the hearing date.
You can get more information about guardianships from:
- The probate court;
- Call the Michigan State Bar (at 1-800-968-0738) to be referred to an attorney who specializes in guardianships. The cost is $25 for 25 minutes; and
- Call Elder Law of Michigan’s Legal Hotline for Seniors for free information at 1-800-347-5297.