LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — What exactly is a conservatorship and how does it work in Nevada?
While the Britney Spears case is bringing critical national attention to the area of law that allows this kind of thing to happen, 13 Investigates has been exposing it here in Clark County for years.
Our years-long investigative reporting revealed the problems with guardianship as we uncovered corruption and greed in the system that's supposed to protect the most vulnerable.
For clarification, the legal terms vary from state to state and are sometimes used interchangeably. In California, where Britney's case is filed, guardianship applies to kids under 18. Conservatorship is for adults. Here in Nevada, the term guardianship applies to both minors and adults.
For adults, the system is supposed to protect people who are unable to care for themselves, like an elderly person with dementia. But it could apply to someone much younger. For example, the victim of a traumatic brain injury or someone with mental health problems.
In a guardianship, the court appoints someone and gives them legal authority to make critical life and healthcare decisions, and manage and protect the person's money, home and other assets.
However, our investigation found the system exploited people, some who didn't need a guardianship at all.
Homes were sold off and entire life savings were drained while the vulnerable person was isolated from family.
Lawyers and private guardians profited while the very person they were supposed to protect, rarely had any voice in the process.
Because of what we exposed in our years-long investigation, former private professional guardian April Parks is serving 16 to 40 years in prison for exploitation, theft and perjury.
Her office manager and attorney and even her husband were also found guilty for their roles in Parks' schemes.
As a direct result of our investigation into the broken guardianship system, the Nevada Supreme Court established a Guardianship Compliance Office, and new state laws were passed to protect individuals and require licensing for professional guardians.
Nevertheless, we unfortunately continue to hear from family members both here in Nevada and across the country who claim their loved one is trapped in a system that many say fails to protect the most vulnerable.
For more information about guardianship reform visit CEAR, the Center for Estate Administration Reform.