For those of you out there that know probate, get ready, this article will make you want to vomit:
Steve Wixson isn’t a well known figure at the Midland County Services Building, but for those he represents, he plays a vital role in their lives.
As director of the Office of Public Guardian, Wixson aids a portion of the mentally ill population that need assistant with life.
“Steve is the advocate for these folks because they can’t advocate for themselves,” County Administrator/Controller Bridgette Gransden said. “He is very good at assisting people and situations and looking out for the ward, but also the county as an organization and the office of public guardian.”
The office of public guardian provides adult guardianship and conservatorship services for the mentally ill population in Midland County.
“We make all decisions for those people including medical and housing. We also manage their Social Security benefits and disability,” Wixson said recently.
A guardian has been granted authority by the probate court to be responsible for the personal and physical wellbeing of an adult who is called a Legally Incapacitated Individual. A conservator also has probate court authority, but is responsible for the estate of an adult who is a Protected Individual.
“Conservatorship usually takes place if they have assets over and beyond Social Security and disability,” Wixson said. “If they have a house or vehicle that needs to be sold to maintain their quality of care, we would sell that. That’s pretty common for us.”
Currently, the Public Guardian assists a maximum of 105 people, ages 30 to 96.
“Any more than that we do a disservice to the people we serve. A lot of people would be homeless if we didn’t step in and manage these funds for them,” said Wixson.
The public guardian works closely with county law enforcement agencies and community mental health, but is limited in its scope of advice.
“When people call they want a specific answer. But I am not an attorney so I can’t give legal advice. I’ll always point them to adult protective services,” said Wixson, who has a background in criminal justice and social work.
Last year the public guardian raised nearly $121,000 through fees for various services, said Wixson. Those funds included a 6.85 percent fee on the sale or liquidation of an asset. This year, the county has budgeted $100,000 in revenue.
“All of the public guardian’s books and the ward’s books are subject to an audit and there is a check and balance in place between the (county) finance and treasurer’s offices and public guardian office,” Gransden said.