Despite what the NM Judiciary and Developmental Disabilities Trusteeship Office reported to the Interim Legislative Health and Human Services Committee, the guardianship system in New Mexico continues to be in crisis.
Abusive conservatories continue to occur in New Mexico, sponsored by predatory attorneys and sanctioned by district court judges. The Guardianship Act, 45-5-101 to 45-5-617, was established in 2012 to protect and preserve the well-being and property of the incapable person. However, this is not what happens in the Land of Enchantment. Unethical professionals — district court judges, plaintiff attorneys, corporate guardians, guardians ad litems and conservators — continue to abuse the system. The people who control the outcome of the guardianship case are the petitioning attorney and the district court judge. The judge grants power to the appointed guardian and conservator, who control all aspects of the “protected person’s” life – such as where the person lives, what medications are prescribed and taken, which doctors the person can consult, who can consult and talk to the person and, of course, their money and assets.
Additionally, the NM courts have ignored legitimate written directives, wills and trusts that have been prepared. For true guardianship reform to occur, judges must appoint guardians and conservators who understand, respect and promote the wishes and best interests of the “protected person”. This is exactly why family members and guardianship advocacy groups need to be recognized as the experts when it comes to hearing and understanding our loved ones. Family members should also have an equal voice at the decision-making table. We are the eyes and ears in the field. We have the daily experiences with our loved ones. We know the individual, their likes, dislikes, triggers, medical history, hopes and dreams. A tutor and/or corporate conservator is a complete stranger solely involved for profit.
Our Heads of State – Legislators, Cabinet Secretaries, Attorney General and Governor – must address these injustices to ensure the respect and protection of the human rights, civil rights and protection of their financial assets of our most vulnerable populations. .
The media must continue to report on these concerns. The public has the right to know.
This guest column was also signed by Rick and Terry Black, executive directors of the Center for Estate Administration Reform, and Dr. Sam Sugar, founder of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship.