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Guardianship 'Ignores' Elder Rights

Florida designed its guardianship program to help vulnerable elders, but critics say the cobbled-together, rapidly expanding system instead is ignoring the rights of the helpless, a series in the Sarasota Herald-Tribunereveals.

Reporter Barbara Peters Smith found that the guardianship system -- administered in Florida probate court -- often takes place in closed hearings. And documents are hard to track, as individual Clerk of Courts handle the records differently.

She highlights the cases of Floridians such as Marie Winkelman, 89, of Sarasota, who was ordered into state oversight following a relative’s complaint, and saw $635,000 of her money go to attorney and guardian fees; and Willie Berchau, a 100-year-old World War II veteran who had a court-appointed guardian sell most of the furniture in his apartment while he was in the hospital for bladder cancer surgery.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.