This afternoon the state Senate passed a bill on a voice vote that would restrict the power of professional guardians and conservators by requiring them to register with the state and to obtain certification. These court-appointed officials exercise sweeping powers over individuals deemed incapacitated by a judge, but there are no educational or professional requirements to become one. The reforms passed by the Senate are part of a broader bill that would also establish a bill of rights for wards and protected persons. The state House unanimously passed a guardian reform bill last week, but it omitted the certification and registration requirements.
Now reform advocates hope that a conference committee can, sometime before Monday, reconcile the more far-reaching Senate bill, championed by Sen. Mee Moua, with the House bill, sponsored by Rep. Paul Thissen, said Kathy Kelso, public policy director with the Mental Health Association of Minnesota.
In addition to the bill of rights, which codifies all of the existing liberties wards and protected people have under state law, both bills require annual filings with the court by guardians and conservators with their contact information and an updated background check. The bill also would prevent guardians from removing someone designated as a health care agent without due process. There are also provisions to establish that wards can challenge aspects of their guardianships and conservatorships.
“It makes it really clear that a ward can go back to court… not just to get out from underneath a guardianship, but to modify a guardianship in a way that meets their needs,” Kelso said. “In large measure this bill is trying to make it really clear to the courts, the probate courts, they have a responsibility to hear the wards when they’re having problems with their guardians.”