Do Wards in Minnesota Retain the Right to Vote?

With election day soon approaching, you may be wondering if your loved one that is under guardianship or conservatorship in Minnesota retains the right to vote.  The answer is yes, they mostly likely do still have the right to vote.  Minnesota Statute 524.5-313, which sets forth the powers and duties of a guardian, states “unless otherwise ordered by the court, the ward retains the right to vote.”  Further, the Bill of Rights For Wards and Protected Persons, Minnesota Statute 524.5-120, also delineates: “The ward or protected person retains all rights not restricted by court order and these rights must be enforced by the court. These rights include the right to  . . . (14) vote, unless restricted by the court.”

So, it is necessary for you to look at the Order that was issued by the Court initially appointing the guardian (and any Orders subsequently issued by the Court) and see whether that somehow restricts the right to vote.  If it doesn’t, then the ward may still vote.  Despite the guardianship, the ward is still an individual whose voice still matters, so encourage him or her to have their voice heard and get out and vote!

As always, if you have specific questions about the rights of individuals under guardianship in Minnesota, please contact Buffalo, Minnesota Attorney Cindi Spence Matt.

MAGiC 2010 Annual Fall Conference

The Annual MAGiC (Minnesota Association for Guardianship and Conservatorship) Fall conference is rapidly approaching (November 4, 2010). Information and registration details on the MAGiC website. This year’s theme is “Navigating Sensitive Issues with Competence and Compassion”.

Presentations Include:

The Problem of Medical Futility

Phebe Saunders Haugen, Professor, William Mitchell College of Law

The problem of medical futility complicates decision-making for families and other surrogates. This session will consider the important legal and ethical aspects of such dilemmas.

Animal Hoarding and Techniques for Working with Hoarders

Keith Streff, Investigator, Animal Humane Society

Explore characteristics, motivations and strategies for interventions with animal hoarders, which have broader application for other hoarders, from experienced investigator who walks the lines between empathy and enforcement.

To Lie or Not to Lie: The Ethical Dilemma of Whether to Employ White Lies and Therapeutic Fibs in Working with Clients who have Cognitive Impairment

Anita Raymond, LISW, Volunteers of America of MN;

Mary McGurran, LSW, NCG, Volunteers of America of MN

Is it ever permissible to lie when working with clients with dementia and other cognitive impairments? This session reviews the statutory requirements for professionals, defines ethical principles and identifies ethical conflicts to provide practical techniques to use in working with clients.
The Prudent Investor Rule

Brian Kompelien, ChFC, Ensemble Planning, LLC

Understand the principles of this fiduciary standard and its application in investment decisions and asset management.
Protecting the Vulnerables: A Practical Approach to Identifying and Addressing Issues of Capacity and Undue Influence

Luther Amundson, Attorney, Maser & Amundson, P.A.

Learn the legal standard for capacity, diminished capacity and undue influence and how to recognize when interventions and legal remedies are indicated.
Check back here for detailed blog posts about these topics after the conference!

Employment Opportunity for Minnesota Attorneys

Looking for an opportunity to do some service, earn a bit of money (the pay is low: $50 an hour), and help indigent individuals? From the Hennepin County Court website:

The Probate/Mental Health Division is now accepting applications for the Guardianship/Conservatorship Court-appointed Attorney Panel. Applicants must meet the following criteria: Minimum of 5 yrs experience as an attorney; some experience with guardianship/conservatorship cases; current malpractice insurance; be willing to authorize Court to check with the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board, and devote three CLE credits to guardianships/conservatorships annually. Interested candidates should contact Steve Bittick at (612) 348-4107 for an application. Application deadline is November 5, 2010.

CAMPER agent designee

I got an answer to my question “Will an attorney be able to file electronically through CAMPER for a conservator client?”  The short answer:  “Yes”.  This was mentioned briefly in an article on CAMPER in the October 4, 2010 issue of Minnesota Lawyer, where Michael Moriarity, District Court Administrator for the 10th Judicial District, indicated that the statewide CAMPER system (unlike the pilot program in Ramsey County) would accept filings from a bookkeeper or attorney on behalf of a conservator.  The article did not explain procedurally how this would be accomplished, so I called Mr. Moriarity to find out.  According to him, there will be an Agent Designation form that will be available online for attorneys to complete and submit the paperwork.  An attorney will do the CAMPER training once, and then will complete the Agent Designation form, apply for a CAMPER user name/password and will be able to submit accountings online for their clients.  I believe the Agent designation form gets filed with each case.  Since it is the conservator that is ultimately accountable to the court, an attorney would essentially prepare the electronic accounting, save it, call their conservator client in for a meeting and review it with the client to make sure it is accurate, have the conservator sign a hard copy of what will be submitted (mostly for the attorney’s own liability reasons), and then the attorney will submit it electronically (along with the agent designation).  Mr. Moriarity indicated that the Agent Designation forms would be available online this week (hopefully) and that the FAQ section of the CAMPERS information would explain this process.

I also discussed with Mr. Moriarity whether there would be a uniform way to “opt out” of CAMPERS electronic filing, for those conservators who simply are not computer savvy and who do not want to hire an attorney to file electronically.  There will not be a uniform way to opt out.  However, as with most things, the judges have discretion to issue an Order making an exception.  In fact, I was recently in court in Sherburne County and observed one of the judges making such an exception.  I think making exceptions like this is important and should be done on a case by case basis if the circumstances warrant it.  I know that there are many conservatorships where there aren’t a whole lot of assets involved, and it is a parent or an elderly spouse who is the conservator for a family member and the conservator simply doesn’t have the computer skills, time or resources to figure out how to file through CAMPERS.  In cases like this, I hope judges will make an exception and allow the conservator to file “the old fashioned way”.

I also found out more about how the CAMPERS system works for the Courts.  Apparently there is computer code built in that flags certain aspects of the account if certain things happen.  For example, if a particular expense is too large (I don’t know what the threshold is), it will be flagged for examination.  If an expense category is too large compared to previous years accountings in that file, it will be flagged for examination.  Once they are flagged for examination, some things will be readily apparent and won’t warrant a hearing.  (i.e. if the rent expense category is huge this year, and it is because the protected person went from living at home to living in a nursing home, that is easily explainable and would not require a hearing).  But if there is no clear explanation for an item that is flagged, the Court would likely set the matter for hearing and have the conservator explain the flagged item.  With the recent headlines about conservators stealing money from their clients, I think a system like this is a good thing and will more easily catch the bad guys.