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Sweeney Bill To Protect People With Developmental Disabilities Signed Into Law By Gov. Corzine

Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem, speaks on the FY 2010 Budget.

TRENTON – Gov. Jon S. Corzine has signed into law a bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney to protect beneficiaries with developmental disabilities by requiring the trustees and guardians designated in a will to post a bond and periodically provide accountings to the court.

“Unscrupulous people who are looking to take advantage of someone to make some easy money have, unfortunately, preyed on the most vulnerable members of our society, including people with developmental disabilities,” Sen. Sweeney (D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem) said. “This bill will make sure the rights of people with these disabilities are protected when they are named beneficiaries of an estate.”

Under the terms of the bill (S-550) the court will determine the amount and conditions of the bond required where a will names a person with a developmental disability. Developmental disabilities include mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, spina bifida and other neurological impairments.

The Senator said he introduced the bill in response to a 2003 case in which a man with developmental disabilities 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 people with developmental disabilities 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 help to ensure that what happened to Mr. Mich never happens again.”

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