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Law restores faith in Kane public guardian office

Appointed by Gov. PQuinn Aurorattorney DianLaw steps replace Christine Adelman as new head Public Guardian system. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

Appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn, Aurora attorney Diana Law steps in to replace Christine Adelman as the new head of the Public Guardian system. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 22, 2013 6:06AM

Wednesdays are pow-wow days in Diana Law’s office.

That’s the day that Law and three other staff members gather in a conference room at her Aurora office to review every one of the two dozen public guardian cases Law is handling. As the four women eat lunch, they talk through each case, one at a time. They ensure the bills are being paid, the finances are in order and that the client is safe.

It’s all part of the new procedures that have been put in place since April, when Law was appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn as Kane County’s new public guardian, entrusted with protecting residents who have no one else to help them. The county’s public guardian is appointed for people with more than $25,000 in assets, but a judge has deemed them incapable of managing their physical or financial affairs. Often, the wards are completely or nearly alone.

For years, many Kane County residents said even after the guardian was appointed, they felt alone. The criticism focused on Christine Adelman, a former tennis pro who became involved in local politics and was appointed the county’s public guardian in 2003. Under Adelman’s tenure, wards and their families members complained that she mismanaged funds, kept poor records and — in at least one case — buried someone without permission.

After increasing pressure driven by articles in The Beacon-News and The Courier-News, Quinn appointed Law as the new public guardian. Her background was a good fit: she was a managing partner in a law firm specializing in estate law and elder care.

Adelman remains assigned to a few cases, but all of the wards will eventually move to Law and her team. Law will not criticize Adelman’s work, but did acknowledge that there was plenty to do on the files she received.

Some of the cases were transferred to the state’s public guardian program. Others needed to be reorganized. In just the last nine months, she’s recovered $100,000 for 23 wards and found state programs and stock benefits that had gone unclaimed.

Much of that work was made possible by the team that Law assembled to handle the complicated cases that require constant maintenance.

“I can’t imagine how one person could do this,” Law said. “It’s a big job.”

But more than the structural changes, Law discovered a passion for interacting with the wards. She loves that she can move beyond some of the “white glove” aspects of estate law and gets to know these clients. She thrills at hearing about stories about growing up in the Depression. Her two children sometimes tag along to the nursing homes, when Law stops by to drop off a favorite meal.

“I love it because it brings out my social work side,” Law said. “Their lives are fascinating. That’s part of the job I love.”

And the people she works with seem to love it, too. Law said when she told one woman her team was going to make sure her bills were paid, the woman teared up.

“I feel like I won the million dollar lottery because you’re going to help me,” the woman said.

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