Big changes for guardianship in Nevada

Published: May. 15, 2017 at 4:59 PM PDT
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Many of us remember the actor Peter Falk as the bumbling detective “Columbo” or as the grandfather-story teller in "Princess Bride."

In New York state, prosecutors know him as a son who pushed for the arrest and conviction of a man who befriended his wealthy mother, isolated her and bilked Madeline Falk out of a million dollars.

“He did public service announcements for financial exploitation. He felt very passionately about it,” says Catherine Falk.

But what you may not know is Falk had two daughters who found out about their father's death through news media accounts.

Catherine Falk says she fought her stepmother in court for months to gain access to her father, who by the time she got to see him suffered from dementia.

“You know the burden should not be placed on the person--the family that's wanting to see visitation. The burden to isolate should really be put on the power of attorney to justify why are you isolating this person from all of these people,” says Falk.

If you think such things are impossible in this day and age, think again.

Current laws in Nevada allow a court appointed guardian--be it relative, a private company, or public guardian--to make all decisions for the person who is declared incapacitated, sometimes with very abusive results.

“A private professional guardian who had moved that elderly person, and was charging unbelievable fees. One day it appeared as if they billed 25 hours in one day.....yeah.” testified Barbara Buckley with Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada.

Her agency has investigated and represented “Protected Persons” for more than a year now.

Buckley told Assembly Judiciary Committee members she supports both Senate Bills


because they paint clear-cut lines with what rights a "protected person" has, as well as directs the guardian to what they can and cannot do, and what needs to be reported to the court that oversees the process.

"The Bill of Rights" which she authored, if passed, would make Nevada only the third state in the nation with such a system in place.

“So this to me is one of the best bills in the country,” said Catherine Falk about SB 360 which contains the Bill of Rights as well as criminal penalties for guardians convicted of elder abuse or exploitation.

Guardians and facilities that violate the bill of rights can face civil litigation. But both Senate Bill 433 and 360 must make their way to the governor's desk first.

Assembly Judiciary took no action on these two bills May 15, 2017.

But as one lawmaker said last week, this session could be the year of marijuana, as well as changes to guardianship.