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Ohio Supreme Court changes rules for guardianships

Posted at 8:00 AM, Feb 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-19 08:00:09-05

The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on under a content-sharing agreement.

The Ohio Supreme Court has issued changes to the state’s rules for guardianship set to take effect July 1. The tweaks are meant to avoid fraud and abuse by imposing new reporting and training requirements.

The guardianship system, overseen by Ohio’s county probate courts, provides care for people who can’t care for themselves. But it’s a delicate arrangement. Empowering a third party to make major decisions on behalf of someone else can be necessary, but it almost inevitably raises concerns about potential exploitation.

Through its rules of superintendence, the state supreme court lays out the ground rules for administering guardianships. Those rules already require guardians receive regular training, avoid conflicts of interest, and meet with wards in person. Guardians also have to update the court on how their ward is doing through an annual plan, account for how they’re spending the ward’s money, and inform the court about any changes in residence.

Despite that level of oversight, abuse or neglect can still happen, and the court’s changes portray a frank assessment of that reality.

To address the possibility of exploitation by a ward’s family, friends or caregivers, guardians will now receive training on how to spot and report abuse as part of their education requirements. The amendments also add the long-term care ombudsman and law enforcement to list of authorities to which guardians should refer allegations of potential abuse.

To avoid abuse by guardians themselves, the court’s changes attempt to maintain contact between the ward and their family or friends. Among the changes, probate courts will have to include denial of visitation as part of the complaint process against a guardian.

Other changes in that vein include directing a court investigator outside the guardian-ward relationship to speak with the ward about their visitation history and preferences, and then report their findings to the court. The new rules also direct guardians to actively work with their wards on the list of people who can visit or write to them. Guardians would have to inform the court about any changes to that list.