Alarming issues in Tri-State’s adult guardianship systems

More than 108,000 people in the Tri-State live under court-appointed guardianships and a six-month long investigation found that the adult guardianship system in our area is plagued by several concerning issues, including courts not keeping track of guardianship records and guardian commissions, guardians filing incomplete paperwork, courts not having sufficient oversight of guardians and people questioning the power provided to guardians, including the ability of guardians to isolate people from their family and friends.

Reporters investigated the guardianship case of Nathaniel LaMar Junior, of Cobble Hill, and found the guardian did not notify the court of LaMar’s death until five months after his death.

Nathaniel LaMar Junior, born in Atlanta, was a writer and editor. He lived most of his adult life in Cobble Hill.

Larry Gile, LaMar’s friend, wrote to Judge Lisa Ottley notifying the judge the guardian had not filed a statement of death.

Under the law, guardians are supposed to notify the court regarding the death of their ward within 20 days of the date of death.

The delay held up the millions of dollars LaMar had bequeathed to the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Cambridge University, Howard University College of Medicine – where LaMar’s father went to medical school – and Phillips Exeter Academy – where LaMar went to high school.

The guardian also wrote the incorrect date of death for LaMar on the official court filing.

Guardian Renee Oppenheimer wrote the wrong date of death in the official court filing. LaMar died February 9.

In addition, the death certificate states LaMar’s education as “unknown,” although LaMar was one of the first Black men to graduate from Harvard University in 1955 and studied at the University of Cambridge where his writing was admired by poet Sylvia Plath. LaMar later edited projects for Martin Luther King Jr.

The death certificate of ward Nathaniel LaMar Junior states that his education was “unknown,” although he was one of the first Black men to graduate from Harvard University.

The death certificate also states that LaMar was not in the armed forces when he had served in the U.S. Army.

The court-appointed guardian, Renee Oppenheimer, told reporters in an email that the statement of death was delayed because the funeral home had to make several amendments to LaMar’s death certificate.

As for the incorrect date of death, Oppenheimer said it was a typo.

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