Law aims to protect seniors from fraud


Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, discussed in San Jose Tuesday the recent passage of legislation aimed at protecting senior citizens from financial fraud.

"I think we've made a great step forward on behalf of the seniors in California and it is my pleasure to have carried this bill," Mr. Gordon told reporters at a news conference.

AB 1288, which has been signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, addresses financial abuses that affect seniors and dependent adults who are unable to handle their own personal or financial affairs.

The legislation would expand the authority of the public guardian -- who serves as the legal guardian or conservator of senior citizens -- to possess all assets held in the name of a proposed conservatee's trust. Currently, a public guardian can only take possession or control of a person's real or personal property held in a personal trust.

The bill also extends the duration that a public guardian can take temporary possession of property, including trust assets, from 15 to 30 days, to allow time for the guardians to find and secure assets and to obtain a hearing date for the conservatorship petition.

According to Mr. Gordon's office, the extended time will help safeguard a person's assets from misuse or fraud while the conservatorship petition is pending in court.

"The important element here is that we have provided a new level of protection for vulnerable seniors," Gordon said. "But, also given those who work so hard as deputy public guardians an additional tool -- and that's the additional 15-day time limit."

The legislation exempts a current trustee or conservator who is a spouse of the proposed ward or conservatee from taking control of the assets in a trust, except in cases where it is determined that the real or personal property held in the trust would be at risk of substantial loss or misappropriation.

Also in attendance at the news conference were Dave Cortese, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, and San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier. Their counties co-sponsored the bill.

The law will go into effect on Jan. 1.

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