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We’re Here to Help: When Guardianship Goes Wrong
by Diane Dimond
Brandeis University Press, 2023
Paper: 978-1-68458-167-2 | eISBN: 978-1-68458-168-9

Shines a penetrating light on a part of the justice system unfamiliar to most of the public—even though it could unexpectedly overtake anybody’s life.
The state-run guardianship system, called conservatorship in some states, is largely unregulated, ill-understood, and increasingly populated by financially motivated predators. Just how guardianship works and its real-life effects remained a mystery to most until the very public case of pop star Britney Spears. It suddenly became clear that those conscripted into the system lose all their civil rights in the process. Currently, there are an estimated 1.5 to 2 million Americans under court control, but no one can say for sure how many are affected because no government entity keeps track of citizens who have lost the right to determine their own fate.

Established in the late 1800s, the guardianship system was designed to assist the most vulnerable citizens: the elderly and the physically or intellectually disabled. While guardianship has been beneficial to many “wards of the court,” this little-understood process can be a judicial rollercoaster from which there is seldom an escape, and which often leads to financial devastation for the ward. Each year, fifty billion dollars belonging to wards are placed under the control of court appointees, tempting bad actors. As investigative journalist Diane Dimond discovers, the number of exploitive and abusive guardianship cases nationwide demands our urgent attention.
Explosive and compelling, We’re Here to Help tells the human stories behind the headlines and shows how to avoid the risks of voluntary or involuntary guardianship.

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