140619_HER07_44Sylvia Rudek

Age: 65
Hometown: Mount Prospect
Cause: Protection for the infirm

“I’ve had two lives,” says Rudek. “Before 2001 and after, when I had my eyes opened to guardianship.” That’s the year a cousin was appointed temporary guardian to Rudek’s aunt and embezzled more than $78,000 before Rudek, who lived 100 miles away, discovered the abuse. After a five-year battle, the cousin pled guilty to theft and was sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. Rudek has been fighting against guardian abuse ever since. She joined the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse in 2006, volunteering 40 hours a week, counseling others about the issue, referring people to lawyers, and pushing for reform. In May, the Illinois legislature unanimously passed an amendment that promises greater protection.

Says Rudek:

Do your power of attorney before your will. You could get in an accident, not recognize anyone, and the court could appoint anybody. There is no age limit on this.”

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