Bill would establish fund to benefit wards of the state

Published 6:31 pm Monday, March 25, 2019

A bill sponsored by Daniel Elliott (R-Danville) this session would create a fund to benefit wards of the state, many of whom may be elderly residents who are unable to care for themselves and do not have any family.

House Bill 479 has passed the state House and Senate unanimously and is now awaiting a signature from Gov. Matt Bevin in order to become law — something Elliott said he expects will happen.


The bill would create the Guardianship Trust Fund, which would consist primarily of money leftover in the estates of wards of the state after they die. The fund could also receive donations and grant money, according to the bill.

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The money in the fund would be used by social workers in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to help with expenses for current wards of the state, Elliott explained.

According to the bill, the funds could be used for:

• temporary housing costs;

• medical supplies or transportation services;

• emergency personal needs, including clothing or food;

• burial expenses; and

• “expenses necessary to ensure health, safety and well-being when no other funds are available or accessible in a timely manner.”

Wards of the state are people who have been determined by a Kentucky court not to be able to care for themselves fully, Elliott said. They are not always elderly, but many are; they often do not have any living family members or their family members are unwilling or unable to properly care for them, he said.

Often, Alzheimer’s, dementia or serious health problems can leave someone unable to take care of themselves; that’s when the state can take over guardianship of the person if a court orders, Elliott explained.

Currently, when a ward of the state dies, if there is any money left in their estate after it’s settled, the money goes into the Kentucky treasurer’s unclaimed property account, where nothing happens with it, Elliott said. This bill would instead funnel that leftover money into the Guardianship Trust Fund, where it could be used for current wards of the state.

“There is a one-year period of time that a relative of that ward could come forward to claim (the money),” Elliott said. “So it’s not an automatic thing.”

Elliott said he doesn’t know how many wards of the state die each year or how much money annually is currently going into unclaimed property. But most leftover amounts are in the hundreds of dollars.

“These are situations where a person is not going to have more than $10,000 of personal property,” he said. “Most of these cases … you’re talking about very small amounts of money that the person may have leftover … typically from maybe some type of Social Security benefit or disability.”

Elliott said the funds will hopefully be used “as a supplement” rather than a replacement for funding the state already spends on wards.

“If used properly, I think it could be a very, very good thing for those people,” he said. “… No one’s been opposed to it as of this point, so hopefully the governor will sign it and we can begin to use those resources for the benefit of those people who need them.”