Most people who have guardians or conservators have a genuine need. Most people who seek guardianships or conservatorships have sincere concerns about their would-be wards. Nevertheless, as recent headlines dramatically attest, sometimes guardians and conservators abuse their positions to exploit the people in their care.
Last year, representatives in Congress representing both parties introduced legislation that would offer people living under guardianships or conservatorships certain federal protections. The goal is to allow wards to seek recourse from the courts for treatment that is abusive or exploitive. According to WFTS Tampa Bay, the name of the bill is the Freedom and Right to Emancipate From Exploitation Act, also known as the FREE Act.
What would the FREE Act do?
Under the FREE Act, states would have to file annual reports regarding guardianship and conservatorship cases with the court. Independent appointees would monitor these cases for any indication that a guardian or conservator is abusing his or her position.
Guardians and conservators have sometimes exploited their wards for personal financial gain. The FREE Act would allow petitions to the court from people under conservatorships or guardianships asking for a public guardian receiving pay from taxpayers to replace a private or professional guardian.
What is the current status of the bill?
Upon its introduction in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 20th, 2021, the bill went immediately to the House Committee on the Judiciary. According to Congress.gov, there have been no further updates since then. Therefore, the bill’s status remains uncertain.
The FREE Act is a bipartisan endeavor sponsored by both Democratic and Republican congressional representatives, one of whom is from Florida, representing St. Petersburg.