We’re Here to Help
When Guardianship Goes Wrong
Published by: Brandeis University Press
Release Date: September 19, 2023
The state-run guardianship system, called conservatorship in some states, is largely unregulated, ill-understood, and increasingly populated by financially motivated predators. Just how guardianship works and its real-life effects remained a mystery to most until the very public case of pop star Britney Spears. It suddenly became clear that those conscripted into the system lose all their civil rights in the process. Currently, there are an estimated 1.5 to 2 million Americans under court control, but no one can say for sure how many are affected because no government entity keeps track of citizens who have lost the right to determine their own fate.
Established in the late 1800s, the guardianship system was designed to assist the most vulnerable citizens: the elderly and the physically or intellectually disabled. While guardianship has been beneficial to many “wards of the court,” this little-understood process can be a judicial rollercoaster from which there is seldom an escape, and which often leads to financial devastation for the ward. Each year, fifty billion dollars belonging to wards are placed under the control of court appointees, tempting bad actors. As investigative journalist Diane Dimond discovers, the number of exploitive and abusive guardianship cases nationwide demands our urgent attention.
Explosive and compelling, We’re Here to Help tells the human stories behind the headlines and shows how to avoid the risks of voluntary or involuntary guardianship.
We're Here to Help is a rare and illuminating book about how guardianships/conservatorships are routinely mishandled in our courts. Author Diane Dimond’s well researched case studies of how judges, lawyers, guardians collude to profit from the fortunes of the elderly and the disabled are an eye-opener. We're Here to Help is a testament to the immediate need for reform of our guardianship/conservatorship laws.
—Judge LaDoris Hazzard Cordell (Ret.), author of Her Honor: My Life on the Bench
Diane Dimond has written a searing, insightful examination of guardianship that all too often fails those it is supposed to help. As Dimond reveals by close investigation of guardianships gone bad, it is too susceptible to exploitation and theft, and worse, abuse of the so-called “incapacitated” person. Dimond identifies the need for adequate funding of oversight and supervision of guardians. The need is great. The time to act is now.
—Lawrence A. Frolik, Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Pittsburgh School of Law
A tenacious reporter and skillful writer, Dimond uses compelling stories of real people to pull back the curtain on a guardianship system shrouded in secrecy, where power, greed and influence all too often intersect with devastating consequences for the people the system is intended to protect—and their loved ones. A powerful book.
—Kent Walz, lawyer, journalist, and former editor-in-chief of The Albuquerque Journal
These stories will break your heart. Private stories and public, the pattern emerges: warring siblings or estranged spouses, a willingness to destroy a person’s waning years to pirate their sometimes substantial estates, all with regrettably minimal judicial oversight. (Dimond) reports fairly, giving competing versions of events equal space. If you read one book this year, We’re Here to Help should be it.
—Jack Furlong, Attorny at Furlong and Krasny
Ms. Dimond's explanation of what has gone wrong—and continues to go wrong—in our nation's court system is timely and important information for all of us. To those who truly want to protect incapacitated adults I urge you to please read this book.
—Lisa MacCarley, conservatorship attorney, California
Diane Dimond's ambitious book We're Here to Help uncovers the devastation caused by mercenary guardians and conservators who exploit their court-appointed powers over vulnerable people. With elements of true crime and self-help, We're Here to Help advocates for systemic reform as it diagrams the labyrinth of guardian and conservator legal proceedings via wrenching cautionary tales.
Award-winning investigative journalist/syndicated columnist Dimond (Thinking Outside the Crime and Justice Box) dives deep into those issues from the perspectives of both the people who were placed under a guardianship and their loved ones who tried everything to get them out. Their testimonials enhance Dimond’s extensive research that shows that many people lose their rights and freedom due to poorly regulated state courts and people seeking financial gain. The book includes feasible action items people can take to protect themselves.
—Library Journal, starred review