An internal review of guardianship cases in Clark County showed that less than half are in compliance with state laws and that most vulnerable adults are stripped of rights without an attorney.
District Court Judge Diane Steele provided an in-depth overview of the county’s guardianship caseload during a presentation to the Nevada Supreme Court commission studying guardianship. The panel has been meeting since last summer in an effort to fix the state’s troubled system. The commission was formed following a Review-Journal series highlighting the flaws and lack of oversight of county’s guardianship system that watches over thousands of at-risk adults, called wards.
Most compliance issues stemmed from family members not knowing they needed to file annual reports for their incapacitated family member, according to the report.
But the study showed that about 850 of the 3,800 active cases have not filed the required annual accountings that show how a ward’s money was distributed and spent over a 12-month period. In 975 cases, the initial inventory — which lists the assets of the ward such as real estate, vehicles and liquid assets — was also missing, the report said. Without an inventory, it’s nearly impossible for the court to know what the ward owned or how much money the estate is worth. Steele added that several cases have multiple compliance issues.
Steele said she hopes that a newly implemented, case-management system, which automatically flags cases for numerous types of compliance violations, will help bring more cases in line with state law. The previous guardianship software did not notify the courts if the guardians failed to file accountings or inventories.
The report also showed that 85 percent of wards have no legal representation through the guardianship process. That means those wards, most of whom have already been deemed unfit to handle their own affairs, face the potential loss of rights that comes with guardianships alone and without any knowledge of the system.
The commission has bounced around the idea of recommending that all wards be given the right to an attorney, much like those facing criminal charges, but it has not made a formal decision yet.
The commission is scheduled to meet twice more, on April 22 and May 20, before making recommendations for changes to laws and court procedures to the Supreme Court.