An article by Todd Cooper in the Omaha World Herald on December 20, 2011 highlights the need for the amendments to Nebraksa’s Probate Code provisions governing the appointment of conservators and guardians which took effect on January 1, 2012.  Although monetary assets of a ward are often protected by being deposited in an account which allows for withdrawal only upon court order, Mr. Cooper’s article notes the arrest of a son acting as a guardian for his mother when thousands of dollars went missing from her guardianship account.  The amendments were adopted by Nebraska’s Unicameral Legislature through LB 157 following the October 1, 2010 Report of Final Recommendations of the Joint Review Committee of Status of Guardianships and Conservatorships in the Nebraska Court System.  The amendments are summarized on the Nebraska Supreme Court’s website.

In the personal injury world, conservators and guardians are used to manage personal injury settlements.  As part of the effort to better protect Nebraska wards and their assets, the amendments require potential conservators or guardians to submit the following information and reports to the Court at least ten days before an appointment hearing:

  1. A credit check;
  2. A national criminal history from the Nebraska State Patrol;
  3. A check of the central register created in section 28-718 for any history of the nominated guardian or conservator exhibiting behavior injurious to or which may endanger the health or morals of a child or adult; and
  4. A check with the sex offender registry maintained pursuant to the Sex Offender Registration Act.

These provisions will only be waived if good cause has been shown.  The potential conservator or guardian is responsible for the costs of obtaining the necessary reports and information.  The reports and information are not to be disclosed or considered public information.  The amendments, however, don’t provide a procedure for handling or sealing the reports or information submitted to the Court.  Hopefully, these changes will highlight the importance of acting as a conservator or guardian, and put an end to the types of activities noted in Mr. Cooper’s column.