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Success Stories

 Donald K.  Donald K. was adjudicated disabled and the Public Guardian became his guardian in autumn of 1998.  At that time, Donald was a hearing-impaired man in his late 50’s with a second grade education, and life-long medical problems.  The Public Guardian petitioned for guardianship because Donald was financially exploited by a tenant in a building owned by Donald’s mother.  The Public Guardian’s Office was already guardian of Donald’s mother.  

Prior to guardianship, Donald was not participating in any activities.  Aside from his mother, he had no close living relatives or friends.  His father had abused him and his mother.

Once appointed guardian, the Public Guardian’s case manager introduced Donald to Anixter Center, an agency that provides various training and social programs to enhance the quality of life for persons with disabilities.  Donald participated in vocational and social programs and enjoyed them immensely.  Through Anixter, Donald visited Disney World and traveled in an airplane for the first time in his life.  Donald spent ten years at Anixter Center and established many friendships with both staff and other participants.

Donald’s mother was able to return home to live with him when her health improved.  The family had little money and to maintain them in the community, the Public Guardian’s Benefits Department applied for governmental benefits based on their eligibility. The Property Department expended significant time to repair and maintain the aging home.  The Public Guardian’s Office placed other disabled individuals in the home to share living expenses.  Donald and his mother were able to live in the community with a caregiver until she passed away at age 89.

Donald moved into an assisted living facility and then a nursing home when his health declined.  His house was sold and a special needs payback trust was created so that he could qualify for Medicaid.  The trust funds were used to supplement his care.  Although Donald was on oxygen support, he remained socially active and participated in various activities in both facilities.  He even continued to attend Anixter Center from time to time.  

Donald passed away in June 2009 at the age of 68.  Many friends from Anixter, staff and residents of the nursing home, and Public Guardian staff attended his funeral.  He will be remembered for his sweet disposition and courage.

Estate of Hoellen v. Owsley.  When Theodore Hoellen was elderly and suffering from dementia, he was “befriended” by Chicago Police Officer Donald Owsley.  Owsley proceed to exploit Mr. Hoellen out of his entire estate.  Owsley had Mr. Hoellen sign documents naming Owsley as the beneficiary of his pension benefits, savings accounts, and house in a land trust.  After a lengthy trial, the court voided these transactions and awarded Mr. Hoellen $50,000.00 in punitive damages.  Owsley appealed, and the First District Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s order.

Roshawn C.  Roshawn is developmentally delayed.  When Roshawn was crossing the street in the crosswalk with a green traffic light, a semi-truck drove over her body.  The truck was making an illegal turn on a red light.  Roshawn required numerous surgeries and now has disfiguring scars and walks with a limp. 

After the accident, Roshawn’s mother, who was not her legal guardian, retained an attorney to sue the truck company.  The lawyer reached a settlement with the trucking company for an inadequate amount of money to fairly compensate Roshawn for her extensive injuries.  The lawyer then turned over the settlement proceeds to Roshawn’s mother, who squandered the money on herself.

The Public Guardian sued the attorney and the trucking company to obtain fair compensation for Roshawn.  After reaching a settlement, one of the parties backed out.  The Public Guardian then demanded an increased monetary sum, and the other parties successfully moved the trial court to enforce the earlier settlement.  The Public Guardian appealed this order, and was successful in winning a reversal.  The Public Guardian subsequently reached a settlement for a substantially larger sum of money to benefit Roshawn.

Mary L. Mary suffered from chronic schizophrenia for most of her adult life.  As a result of her disability, she did not pay a property tax bill of $347.00.  She lost her home of 20 years in a forced tax lien sale because of the unpaid tax.  The Public Guardian sued to recover Mary’s home, but the trial court affirmed the tax sale.  After appeals to the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Courts, the Public Guardian successfully appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which vacated the tax lien sale and remanded the case for further proceedings in the state appellate courts.  On remand, the Illinois Supreme Court reaffirmed the tax sale.  Although Mary did not recover her home, the case sparked legislative efforts to address the problem of disabled persons who lose their valuable homes over small unpaid property taxes.  For a law journal article about the case see R. Harris, C. Golbert and B. Sullivan, “When Disabled Homeowners Lose Their Homes For a Pittance in Unpaid Property Taxes:  Some Lessons From In re Mary L., 5 NAELA J. 2, p. 159 (2009). 

(2)Avoiding The Scary Possibility Of Guardianship

. When a person becomes mentally or physically unable to make rational decisions about their health or their finances, someone else has to step in. Hopefully that someone is a close relative or personal friend – someone who has your best interests at heart. Generally, the friend or loved one is the one who goes to the court to petition for such an arrangement, because it must be court appointed.

Here is how it works in most states: the loved one seeking a guardianship or conservatorship will petition the court to be appointed as the legal guardian and/or conservator. Most courts require at least one doctor’s certification that the individual (the “ward”) is indeed no longer physically or mentally sound enough to make his or her own medical or financial decisions.  In many states, the process requires that the court appoint an attorney to represent the ward, which makes the process even more time consuming.

This whole process can be very frustrating, expensive and difficult for all concerned, even in situations where everyone involved has the best interests of the ward at heart.  But imagine a situation where the person seeking to be the guardian or conservator is less than honest, does not have the ward’s best interests at heart, and ends up getting complete control over the ward’s body and property.  Sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it? Yes, it is a nightmare and there are plenty of true horror stories floating around to send chills down your spine.

Before I get to the part about how to avoid this happening to you or a loved one, I want to scare you even more by sharing with you what happened when I tried to find out how widespread guardianship is in the U.S.  The bottom line, I discovered, is ‘no one knows.’

Just a few years ago, in response to reports about widespread abuse of the guardianship system, The United States Senate Special Committee on Aging undertook a study of the problem. They launched a survey of current practices, asking for comments, recommendations, and best practices from states, courts, and organizations representing older Americans and people with disabilities throughout the country. In the 100+ responses they received, were detailed stories of guardianship abuses throughout the country.

Essay Requirement

Guarding Against Guardians

Page Requirements:  The essay should be 4-6 pages long.  This means the essay must reach the bottom of the fourth page.Please follow this assignment sheet carefully as you construct your 


Paragraph 1:

Begin your paragraph with a HOOK or ATTENTION GETTER that leads the reader into the essay.

Use a question, quote, shocking fact, or small piece of narrative (story-telling) to attract readers interest and make them want to read your essay.  

Next, give a SUMMARY of the article “How the Elderly Lose Their Rights,” giving credit to the author, Rachel Aviv. 

In the first sentence of your summary, give the title of the article, the author’s full name, and the main idea.  After that, give the main 

supporting ideas from the article in your own words.  Leave out minor or inessential details.  Do not indicate your opinion in the summary.  Do not quote in the summary.  End the paragraph with a THESIS that directly answers the prompt question, “What changes should be made to Guardianship or Conservatorship programs to help prevent future abuses from occurring?”

Paragraph 2 

In this paragraph you will explain Guardianship/Conservatorship to your 

readers, and establish why these programs are sometimes necessary. 

1:  Explain how guardianship programs work to your readers. 

2:  Explain why they are sometimes necessary. 

Paragraphs 3, 4, 5, and 6

:  These are supporting paragraphs in which 

you will back up your thesis with logic and evidence.  These paragraphs will work in pairs.  Paragraph 3 will identify one problem in the Guardianship programs.  Paragraph 4 will argue for one potential 

solution to that problem.  Paragraph 5 will identify a second problem.  Paragraph 6 will argue for a potential solution to the second problem. 

Paragraphs 3 and 5:

1:  Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence.  The topic sentence should point out one problem in Guardianship programs. 

Everything in the paragraph should be about the problem in the topic sentence.  If it is about a different problem, it should go in another 

paragraph or another essay. 

2:  Use logic to explain your what the problem is, and why it is a problem (how does it lead to harm). 

3:  Use evidence to back up your topic sentence.  This may either be a quote from an expert or piece of data that shows the problem, or an 

example of how the problem negatively affected someone.  This may be a quote or paraphrase from one of the sources on Brightspace.  It may be 

an example from your own life or experiences.  It may be a hypothetical example.  

4:  Interpret the evidence.  Explain to readers what that evidence shows and how it connects to your topic sentence. 

5:  Conclusion/Transition Sentence.  Finally, use one sentence to wrap up this paragraph’s idea and lead readers on to the next paragraph 

(the proposed solution).  

Paragraphs 4 and 6:

1:  Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that proposes one potential solution to the problem explained in the previous 

paragraph.  Everything in this paragraph should be about that solution. 

2:  Use logic to explain your proposed solution, and how that will help to fix or improve the problem from the previous paragraph.  

Explain how this will impact people’s lives. 

3:  (If possible) Use evidence to back up your topic sentence.  This may be a quote from an expert who agrees with your solution, data that 

backs up your solutions efficacy, or anything from a source that backs up your claim.  

4:  (If you did 3). Interpret the evidence.  Explain what the evidence shows to your readers.  

5:  (Required) Use an example to illustrate how this suggestion will affect people’s lives.  Return to an example you used in the previous paragraph to establish the problem.  Refer back to that situation (do not introduce it again-readers will remember!), and explain how it would have gone differently if your proposed solution had been implemented.  

If you did not use an example in your previous paragraph, introduce one now and show how your suggestion would improve their situation. 

5:  Conclusion/Transition Sentence.  Finally, use one sentence to wrap up this paragraph’s idea and lead readers on to the next paragraph.  

Paragraph 7

:  The conclusion paragraph. 

1:  First, restate your thesis and topic sentences in different words.  

2:  Finally, find some way to lead readers out of your essay, using one of the hook techniques above or a call to action.  

You MUST use at least two sources (including the article you will summarize) in this essay.

You MUST quote word for word at least twice in the essay.  You CAN NOT quote more than once in a paragraph, although you may paraphrase as many times as you can make work in the paragraph.

Any information taken from sources, whether it is paraphrased or quoted word for word, 

MUST have a parenthetical citation showing where it 

came from.Formatting:  All essays must be typed and double-spaced using Times New Roman 12 point font

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