Sometimes a movie can shake the foundations of established law. Netflix’s new movie I Care a Lot may be one such movie. Not only has the film been a success for Netflix, it has a lot of people rethinking how adult guardianship works.
The movie follows Rosamund Pike’s character Marla, who is a professional guardian. She steps in when the court finds that an elderly individual is unable to manage their life. Marla’s job is to help care for elderly people who can no longer care for themselves. Instead, she sells their belongings, forces them into nursing homes and charges her wards outrageous hourly rates. In the end, Marla leaves her wards penniless, with no civil rights, living out the rest of their days in a nursing home.
This is just Hollywood fiction, right? Surely this couldn’t happen in real life. Unfortunately, predatory professional guardians like Marla do exist.
Writer and director of I Care a Lot, J. Blakeson, told The Moveable Fest that he found stories of real-life Marlas were, “horrifying and not uncommon.” There are cases in New York, Nevada, Florida and even here in Texas. Even stars like Britney Spears are not immune to this form of abuse. The star is currently in a legal battle over her father’s conservatorship of her and her finances.
But there are things you can do to prevent a Marla from invading your life.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from a predatory guardian or conservatorship is to do your estate planning. This process involves setting up durable documents such as a will, trusts, a power of attorney or even advanced medical directives. These documents allow you to determine who will be in charge of your finances, healthcare and estate. Having these in place will make it difficult for a court to assign you a guardian you did not approve. Here is why such measures will help protect you.
In Texas, guardianship is a measure of last resort. It is undertaken only when it is the last, best choice for the individual. Once the court appoints a guardian, it often proves permanent. For that reason, Texas courts ask that you exhaust other options before exploring a possible guardianship. If you have a power of attorney, medical directive or name individuals you wish to take care of you before you become incapacitated, the court is likely to respect those wishes. Even if the court does appoint you a guardian, a trust can keep them from controlling your finances.
In the end, a healthy dose of preparation will deter scammers and financial fraudsters. But you must make sure that your estate planning efforts are strong and legally binding. Consult with Sheehan Law, PLLC to help protect your legal rights. We can help guide you to the best options for your situation. Call us at (512) 355-0155 or fill out our online contact form.