Bill that could strengthen consequences for those who exploit seniors, people with disabilities raises concerns among advocates

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A bi-partisan senior protection bill promises to strengthen the consequences for those who exploit seniors and people who are disabled in their care.

The proposals sailed unopposed through Florida’s House and Senate, but many advocates for this reform aren’t cheering.

The newly passed senior protection bill is hailed as the needed step to greater accountability in the care of seniors and disabled adults. But not by everyone.

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“I’m just completely mystified,” said estates rights advocate Rick Black, who along with his wife Terri run the National Center for Estate Administration Reform (CEAR), which helps people at no cost escape the grip of bad guardians.

Black said he’s concerned by a lack of specific language in the bill to address the unscrupulous attorneys who profit the most off guardianships.

“The system refuses to punish those it sponsors,” he said. “On the other hand, it’s very quick to find fault any family member that they want to move to the side.”

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Last week, Channel 9 met Orlando resident Douglas Keegan after a judge agreed he didn’t have the dementia claimed by his guardian’s attorney, and restored his rights.

The seven-year battle cost Keegan hundreds of thousands of dollars, taken by professional guardians and their attorneys.

“What happened to me is very bad so it’s important that we fix it,” Keegan said.

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Channel 9 went to the bill’s sponsor to clarify its full intent.

In an email, representative Colleen Burton said: “Attorneys and professional guardians can be prosecuted” and “This law is to be enforced on any individual who violates it.”

However, Black said “can be” and “will be” are two very different realities.

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“The system is perfectly designed by the Florida Bar to serve the Florida bar at the public’s expense,” Black said.

Florida prosecutors have never criminally charged an attorney endorsed by a local probate court.

But CEAR maintains the bill provides no specifics that would change.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.