The National Council of Disability says there are roughly 1.3 million adult guardianships nationwide.
A guardianship occurs when a court determines a person is unable to make important decisions on their own.
Both Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate say the system needs to be improved.
“As so many stories have shown us, it can also lead to exploitation and abuse,” Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) said last week during a hearing of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.
“We need guardrails to protect the rights of people in protective arrangements,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) added.
Under guardianships, many people need permission to do basic things like seeing a doctor, spending their own money, or even voting.
Most people in guardianship arrangements are seniors and people with disabilities.
During a recent hearing on Capitol Hill, lawmakers met with people directly impacted by those scenarios, including one woman who has been her mother’s guardian for about a year.
Licensed Counselor Dr. Tina Paone says the court appointed a new guardian for her mother and claims that led to the mismanagement of her mother’s estate.
“My Mom never paid a bill late in her entire life, and now late fees and penalties piled up in excess of $11,000 due to negligence of the guardian,” Paone said.
Lawmakers are discussing bipartisan solutions to the problem. One such proposal would allow states to train and work with law students to represent people in guardianship cases.