A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney to protect developmentally disabled beneficiaries by requiring the trustees and guardians designated in a will to post a bond and periodically provide accountings to the court was approved 38-0 today by the state Senate.
The court would determine the amount and conditions of the bond required where a will names developmentally disabled beneficiary, under terms of the bill (S-550). Developmental disabilities would include mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, spina bifida and other neurological impairments.
“People with developmental disabilities are among the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “Because of this, they can be targeted by unscrupulous operators who want to take advantage of them for a quick buck. This bill will go a long way toward making sure the rights of these potential victims are protected.”
The Senator said he introduced the bill in response to a 2003 case in which a developmentally disabled man was swindled out of his share of his inheritance from his father by the executor of the estate. Former Audubon resident Ronnie Mich had been named the beneficiary of a $1.2 million estate by his father.
“Apparently, the funds were stolen by the executor of the estate, and Mr. Mich was forced to sell his home to pay off his debts,” Sweeney said. “We need to make sure we take steps to safeguard the rights and benefits of developmentally disabled beneficiaries by imposing stricter oversight of trustees and guardians.”
The bill would also allow the court to waive the bond requirement in certain circumstances and provide that the bonding and accounting requirements do not apply to qualified financial institutions.
“In situations like this, the person responsible would be required to file an inventory of all the deceased’s property within two months of being appointed,” Sweeney said. “All these safeguards will make sure we don’t ever have a repeat of what happened to Mr. Mich just a few years ago.”
The bill now goes to the Assembly for consideration.