The aging of the baby boomer generation is expected to cause a dramatic growth in guardianships and conservatorships in Nebraska over the next two decades. In response to the challenges this increase will cause in the legal community, Chief Justice Mike Heavican and the Nebraska Supreme Court today appointed a Guardian/Conservator Commission to ensure both the personal and financial safety of vulnerable adults under guardianships and conservatorships throughout the state.
The Supreme Court Commission on Guardianships and Conservatorships will be co-chaired by Douglas County Court Judge Susan Bazis and Nebraska Court of Appeals Judge Francie Riedmann. Commission members are listed below.
In response to an unfortunate incident in which a Omaha conservator committed fraud against several wards and other abuses noted across the state, Chief Heavican formed a Task Force on Adult Guardianships and Conservatorships as a temporary measure in 2010. The Task Force identified shortcomings in guardianship/conservatorship oversight practices. The Legislature and the Supreme Court stepped up to improve accountability through laws and enforcement procedures which increased protection of the person and assets of court-supervised adults. The Guardianship Reform Act of 2011 was sponsored by Senator Colby Coash and unanimously passed to become effective January 1, 2012. The Supreme Court adopted new rules to increase accountability for those legally entrusted to provide for the financial and personal well-being of Nebraska wards and protected persons.
The Task Force was discharged after making its report and recommendations. The newly-formed, Supreme Court Commission on Guardianships and Conservatorships will be more long-term, and will have increased participation by judges, clerk magistrates, and members of the Nebraska State Bar Association’s probate section, the State’s Unit on Aging, regional and state elder-care entities, statewide developmental disability serving entities, law enforcement, the banking community, and guardians and conservators.
The Commission’s purpose is to engage in continuing analysis and study of statutes, court rules, and court procedures relating to guardianships and conservatorships; to examine the challenges these laws and procedures pose for court staff, the judiciary, the practicing bar, vulnerable adults and children and their legal guardians and conservators, and other professionals and service providers working with protected persons and wards; to propose solutions or improvements both within and without the judicial branch in response to such challenges; and to support the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission which the Nebraska Supreme Court approves.
Chief Justice Heavican, in his 2012 State of the Judiciary address, noted that “None of us is naïve enough to believe that elderly persons will no longer be subject to abuse. But the statutory changes made by the Legislature, which are being implemented by the judicial branch, will provide for better checks and balances." He added, "The Nebraska Supreme Court will continue to make every effort to ensure that these legislatively mandated changes to guardianships and conservatorships will be effectively administered.”
Supreme Court Commission on Guardianships and Conservatorships members:
Co-Chair and County Judge
State Unit on Aging (manager)
Nebraska Dev. Disabilities Reg.
Attorney and NSBA President
Volunteers Assisting Seniors
NSBA Probate Section Chair
J. Terry Macnamara
Deputy Police Chief (Omaha)
Riedmann,Co-Chair and Court of Appeals Judge
Nebraska Banker’s Association
County Judge – ex officio
State Court Administrator – ex officio