Letter: Don’t let family become victim of elder abuse

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 12, 2020

As we near World Elder Abuse Day, I urge you to consider the broken guardianship system in North Carolina that, far from what its name would suggest, is part of the abuse our older citizens are experiencing.

Guardians in North Carolina are appointed by clerks of court, exercising judicial authority despite most having no legal training. The guardians are compensated by a commission on the receipts and expenditures made for the “ward,” encouraging wasteful spending rather than the preservation of the ward’s estate. Operating virtually without supervision and often entirely without interaction with the person they are supposed to be protecting, they exercise complete control over every aspect of the ward’s life, isolating them from friends and family and defaming family who would try to protect them.

Unlike many states that have an office of the public guardian to monitor and control these individuals, North Carolina relies solely on the clerks of court who, having appointed the guardian in the first place, do not react well to having their judgment questioned. And even to do that requires hiring a lawyer and engaging in expensive litigation. Appeals of any decisions go to superior court judges whose office space, budgets and administration is handled by these same clerks of court.

I have appealed to every state agency and official I can find with any potential oversight of this broken system, so far without results. Please take great care that your family never become ensnared in this travesty.

— Lori Barbier