Aging in the shadow of the law: The case of elder guardianship in Israel

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Historically, the frail elderly, as well as other vulnerable populations who are unable to care for themselves, have been subject to legal proceedings known as guardianships. Despite changes and reforms, adult guardianship law has survived as a fundamental legal institution aimed at protecting the frail elderly as well as other incompetent adults. However, very little is known on the reality of adult guardianship under Israeli law, and the experience of the adult population under guardianship was never empirically Studied in Israel. The empirical void regarding the workings of the Israeli law in this area served as the impetus for this study. The study investigated the issue of adult and elder guardianship in Israel as revealed in Family Law Courts' rulings, while focusing in particular on the profile of the wards, the reasons and motives, the legal procedure, and the outcome of the guardianship process. The study was a quantitative analysis, based on a random sample that included 523 court cases requesting legal guardianship for adults due to impaired legal competence. Rulings on these cases were provided in Family Courts from Haifa, Nazareth, and the Krayot areas in the period of the years 2000-2002. A clear but somber picture emerges from the findings of this study: Every year thousands of elderly individuals are subjected to the plenary legal authority of guardians appointed by law. This severe legal outcome takes place without providing these elderly the right to express their positions, without the provision of legal representation, and without their being seen or heard by the courts. These findings lead to the conclusion that there is urgent need in Israel to carry out extensive reform in the realm of civil legislation on the issue of guardianship for adults and the elderly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-77
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Aging and Social Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2004


  • Elder guardianship
  • Family law court
  • Legal competence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Gerontology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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