In November 2005, the Los Angeles Times did an investigation report, entitled Guardians for Profit exposing the failings of California’s Conservatorship system for elderly and dependent adults. The Times’ articles included stories of private conservators who misuse the system and get themselves appointed conservators who misuse the system and get themselves appointed inappropriately and then either steal or mismanage the money their conservatees spent a lifetime earning; public guardians who do not have the resources to help truly needy individuals leaving them poor, alone, and at risk of severe harm to try and fend for themselves; probate courts which do not have sufficient resources to provide adequate oversight to catch the abuses; and a system that provides no place for those in need to turn to for help. In response to these stories, the Senate and Assembly Judiciary Committees held joint committee hearings in December 2005 and heard from both individuals who had been personally harmed by the system as well as representatives from the courts, the Bar, court investigators, the public guardians, professional conservators, and groups representing seniors. All participants agreed the system was significantly underperforming and, as a result harming conservatees and their loved ones. In addition, the witnesses agreed that the problems were only likely to increase exponentially as the baby boom population ages, with a significant increase in the population suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or similarly disabling diseases.
The following legislation was enacted in response to these Times stories and legislative hearings: SB 1116 (Scott) revising provisions for a conservator’s public or private sale of the personal residence of a conservatee; SB 1716 (Bowen) addressing specific problems in the system and protecting elderly and disabled people being cared for by conservators by improving the court’s ability to investigate potential abuse and neglect; AB 1363 (Jones) establishing the Omnibus Conservatorship and Guardianship Reform Act of 2006 to overhaul California’s conservatorship and guardian system; and AB 2042 (Spitzer) expanding when a trustee may be removed.