Saturday, July 30, 2016

Indiana: Power of Attorney May Trump Guardianship Order

An elaborate court ruling that sought to bring family harmony by appointing each of six siblings as co-guardians over a specific area of their elderly mother’s life may have hit a sour note because of a 12-year-old power of attorney which remains valid.

The adult children of Helen Kinney Morris, 89, divided into factions over disagreements about her need for care. Two of the children contended that despite having dementia, Morris was not incapacitated while the other four asserted her memory problems were getting worse and putting her in danger.

In 2015, the Howard Superior Court found Morris was incapacitated because she could not take care of herself or her property without assistance. Putting the woman’s best interests and welfare at the front as well as attempting to repair the family dynamic, the court appointed all the children as guardians but gave each specific duties.

Two of the children, Mary “Molly” M. Kinney and Patrick Kinney, declined to be appointed and later appealed the ruling on the grounds that the guardians are unnecessary because there is a valid power of attorney.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed and remanded in In re the Guardianship of Hellen Kinney Morris: Mary M. Kinney and Patrick Kinney v. Paul Kevin Kinney, 34A02-1510-GU-1809.

Under Indiana Code 29-3-5, the court has the ability to appoint guardians. However, I.C. 30-5-3-4 limits a guardian’s power. The Court of Appeals found a durable power of attorney that Morris executed in 2004, which gave Mary Kinney and Paul Kevin Kinney broad powers, was still valid.

Full Article and Source:
Power of Attorney May Trump Guardianship Order

See Also:
NASGA:  Power of Attorney

California May Soon Push Mentally Disabled People to Kill Themselves in Assisted Suicides

California’s new assisted suicide law, or End of Life Option Act, may be revised to allow patients “with significant intellectual disabilities” to request assisted suicide, Angelus reported.

The doctor-prescribed suicide law passed in October 2015 in California and took effect in June.

It allows doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to mentally competent patients who are diagnosed with a terminal illness and predicted to die within six months, according to LA Times.

These parameters were established as safeguards to protect patients, but now they might be changed.

The California Department of Developmental Services is trying to expand assisted suicide to mentally disabled patients in the state.

These patients are extremely vulnerable for coercion and abuse, and may not have the capability of recognizing the implications of their decision to commit suicide.

 The California department said it wants to expand assisted suicide to the mentally disabled, but safeguards must be put in place to keep other residents and medical personnel safe.

Full Article and Source:
California May Soon Push Mentally Disabled People to Kill Themselves in Assisted Suicides
See Also:
NASGA: No One is Safe

What We All Carry: Kathy Greenlee's Final Speech As Assistant Secretary of Aging and ACL Adminstrator

On the topic of dignity ASA Greenlee said:

As I think about our programs and the people we serve, I’m always mindful of the values that run deep within us. I think we carry Dignity as well as anyone I know. The fundamental understanding and acknowledgement of the dignity and worth of every human being is core to our mission, at ACL and at your organization, in your work.

Our ability to carry the value of Dignity has been emboldened by the creation of ACL, by the co-location of programs that serve older adults, people with disabilities and their families. I believe the intrinsic dignity of an older person has been a core value in the field of aging. But I have also witnessed the more succinct focus on this value as the world of aging has crossed the bridge to the world of disability.

“Nothing about us without us.” The clarion call of the disability rights movement. This charge lead to the creation of Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law 26 years ago today. Nothing about us without us makes us stop and realize there are people missing in many of our conversations.

We can’t make good policy about people who are victims of abuse unless we make a concerted effort to include survivors in our work. We cannot develop appropriate support for people living with Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia unless we talk to those people – and follow their lead.

There are many examples of how dignity is imbedded in our work, as it should be. In our conversations about guardianship reform. In our discussions about services for victims of elder abuse. In our conversations with people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. As we do outreach to diverse communities and families.

In the past year, I traveled to New Mexico and Montana to talk to tribal elders and meet the wonderful program staff who serve them. On both occasions, I was deeply moved by the dignity and stature of older American Indians.

Dignity. We must carry it forward and never lay it down.

Full Speech:
Prepared Remarks of Kathy Greenlee

Friday, July 29, 2016

Call Christina: Professional Guardianship Laws Expanding to Protect Seniors from Exploitation

The state of Florida is cracking down on bad actors in the professional guardianship industry, hoping the latest reform bill, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in March, will protect seniors from guardianship abuse.

Last Friday, the Florida State Guardianship Association (FSGA) met in Fort Lauderdale for their 2016 Annual Conference, where officials discussed recently passed SB-232, based on the guardianship audits performed by the Clerk & Comptroller in Palm Beach County for the last 25 years.

"Historically, the clerks have had the statutory obligation to monitor the guardianship's financial information," Clerk Sharon Bock, from the Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptroller, said. "In 2013, that was enhanced to be able to actually investigate and audit and get down really in the nitty-gritty of these files."

Now that the Clerk of Courts is partnering with the Department of Elder Affairs, however, Bock said the new law fills that hole by requiring a collection of that information all in one place.

"That gap has now closed," Bock said. "We will now, through our partnership with the state, be reporting the outcome of our investigations and audits."

"There are sometimes some bad apples," Secretary Sam Verghese, from the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, said. "What we've sought to do with the legislature has been to fix some of those gaps that have been there, so that if there is someone who's being taken advantage of from abuse, neglect, exploitation, financial fraud, there's a way to actually go after the bad apples so more people aren't hurt."

In creating the Office of Public and Professional Guardians (OPPG) within Department of Elder Affairs, the passing of SB-232 requires that the OPPG provide monitoring and disciplinary oversight of professional guardians, including the ability to revoke a guardian's registration. It also establishes a complaint department for families and those in guardianships, and certifies and supervises court-appointed guardians.

This is in addition to HB-5, which was signed into law last year in order to make it more difficult for guardians to seize control of their wards' assets.

"This in fact will stop, or we hope will deter the kind of unethical and fraudulent practices that we may have seen in the past," Bock said.

Full Article and Source:
Call Christina:  Professional Guardianship Laws Expanding to Protect Seniors from Exploitation

What Alzheimer's Feels Like From the Inside

I was up again at 4 a.m. the other night, one of five nocturnal ramblings in the early morning, the new me. No sleep. Picking my way in the dark, familiar territory of a home on Cape Cod where I have lived with my family for 34 years.

I fumbled into the bathroom as I felt the numbness creep up the back of my neck like a penetrating fog, slowly inching to the front of my mind. It was as if a light in my brain had been shut off. I was overcome by the darkness of not knowing where I was and who I was. So I reached for my cellphone that substitutes as a flashlight, and called the house. My wife, deep asleep in our bed just 20 feet away, rose like Lazarus from the grave to grab the phone in angst, fearing a car crash with one of the kids or the death of an extended family member.

It was me, just me. I was lost in the bathroom.

'Sweetheart Swindler' Sentenced for Theft of $59,000, Exploitation of Elderly Adult

A woman who has been called a “sweetheart swindler” was sentenced Monday for withdrawing money from an older man’s bank account.

Phanta Daramy, 57, of Northeast D.C., was sentenced to seven years in prison with all but two years suspended and five years of supervised probation.

According to police statements and court documents, Daramy met John Andrews, 81, inside of a Giant grocery store and eventually married him. Between September and October 2015 she allegedly withdrew $59,000 from his Bank of America account. When Daramy later attempted to withdraw another $50,000, the bank called police.

Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Anne K. Albright also ordered Daramy to pay restitution of $65,000 to Andrews and have no further contact with him.

Full Article and Source:
"Sweetheart Swindler" Sentenced for Theft of $59,000, Exploitation of Elderly Adult

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Couple Says Grandson Scammed Them Out of Their Home

Helen Kawecki said she never dreamed that she would have to leave the Thousand Oaks home she and her husband have been living in for more than five decades.

The couple in their late 80s will be evicted Monday after their grandson sold their house without telling them, the Kaweckis claimed.

Hank Kawecki said it’s worse than the ultimate betrayal. “It’s kind of bad. It’s your own family,” he sighed.

It was the couple’s neighbor who broke the sad news to them. “They came down with some computer work, and they said: ‘Your house is for sale.’ I said: ‘No, it’s not.’ ”

Full Article and Source:
Couple Says Grandson Scammed Them Out of Their Home

New Program to Root Out Fraud in Florida's Guardianship Program

Charles Waldon spent decades working several jobs while raising a family of five children. He invested in real estate in South Florida and in Georgia, all aimed at building a nice nest for retirement.

"I worked all my life, you know, and tried to build up a retirement," said Waldon via Skype Monday. "I think I did a pretty good job."

But Waldon can’t enjoy the fruits of the retirement he worked so hard to build. The 85-year-old former firefighter is in the midst of a family conflict between his youngest daughter, Carla Alger, and his daughters – Sandra Dunn, Inez Howard and Glenda Waldon. The family’s strong divisions over money, care of their parents, and properties and produced accusations of exploitation from both sides. So Alger asked Miami-Dade Probate Court to help protect her parents and the retirement funds they need during their senior years, she said.

"Granted I started the process out of desperation because I thought if I don’t do something they [her sisters] are going to take mom and dad,” Alger said while in court last week.

Her sister Sandra "Sandi" Dunn disagrees.

“My dad is on food stamps. She’s preventing him for accessing his own money,” Dunn said.

Last year, a Miami-Dade probate judge appointed a professional guardian for the couple – Charles and Peggy Waldon – after a panel of doctors said they were incompetent. Peggy, who suffers from dementia and requires round the clock care, is a ward of the state.

No Financial Oversight
With Florida’s 3.7 million people over 65 years of age, elder exploitation has become the crime of the 21st century, experts said. The guardianship system is driven by money and entrenched in relationships with all the ward’s assets used to pay the fees of all attorneys, medical experts and the guardian, sometimes exhausting seniors’ savings.

"When you take away someone’s constitutional rights and you put into third party hands – a total of $270 billion in the United States – it is just simply rife for fraud, waste and abuse,” said Sharon Bock, Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller.

Charles and Peggy Waldon are among 8,000 guardianship cases in Miami-Dade probate courts system with virtually no financial oversight or a system in place to watch over how the money is spent. Miami-Dade is hardly alone – a few counties in the state have watchdogs looking over the trouble guardianship system.

In recent years, Palm Beach County has stepped into that role by using trained auditors and fraud investigators who work for the clerk and comptroller’s office under the division of the inspector general in charge of investigating fraud, waste and abuse and by performing in-depth audits.

"I think that now the whole United States has seen that a court system without an intermediary, like the clerk, is a conflict of interest. That’s been proven,” Bock said.

To address this issue across the state, Florida Elder Affairs Secretary Sam Verghese and Palm Beach County Clerk Sharon Bock announced Friday a pilot investigative program during Florida State Guardianship Association annual conference held in Fort Lauderdale.

"If you are unscrupulous and you are looking for an easy way to make money or especially targeting the elderly, you are not going to look to guardianships any more. We are closing that hole,” Bock said.

The program will include a hotline where people can file a complaint that would spark an investigation into how senior’s money is being spent by a guardian.

Financial Turmoil
Waldon doesn’t have control over his money, including his firefighter’s pension, since he left Florida. Early this year, the guardian filed a monthly budget with Miami-Dade probate court to cover Waldon’s personal expenses in Georgia like electric, water, health insurance bills and groceries, documents show.

"I’m not getting anything except Social Security and food stamps," Waldon said. "I went to Social Security and they said that my guardian had no right to seize my Social Security. They gave it to me."

In the meantime, their guardian, attorneys and caretakers are racking up bills and will get paid from the Waldons’ money. But how much they are getting paid is a mystery because documentation such as monthly invoices is not part of the public file.

Full Article, Video, and Source:
New Program to Root Out Fraud in Florida's Guardianship Program

Probate Court Critic Should Pay for Breaching Settlements, Estate Guardian Says

J. Albert Diaz Circuit Judge Michael A. Genden
Coral Gables attorney Liz Consuegra Messianu and her client, probate court-appointed guardian Comprehensive Personal Care Services Inc., want to hit critic Sam Sugar where it hurts—his bank account.

In a recent court filing, Messianu argues that Sugar has cost Comprehensive Personal Care money, damaged the “entire Florida probate community” and provided numerous media interviews that violated confidentiality clauses in two settlement agreement.

“Sugar must pay economic damages,” Messianu wrote in a petition dated July 12.

The filing comes in an ongoing adversary proceeding in a guardianship case pending before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Genden. Hearings in the case are set for August and October.

The longrunning dispute focuses on the estate of Sugar’s mother-in-law, who died in 2013. The court battle pits Messianu and Comprehensive Personal Care against Sugar, a semi-retired doctor who heads an elder abuse advocacy group called Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianships.

Messianu’s client was plenary guardian of property belonging to Sugar’s mother-in-law, Idelle Stern, a wealthy widow whose four daughters spent years fighting over her multimillion-dollar estate.

Sugar, meanwhile, joined his wife, Judy, in battling her sisters Joyce Genauer, Rochelle Kevelson and Tikvah Lyons. Each side accused the other of siphoning millions from Stern.

Sugar, who has lobbied for legislative changes and guardianship reform in Florida and elsewhere, is an outspoken critic of the probate courts and guardians. He claims that Stern’s estate dwindled from $12 million to $6 million over five years because of mounting legal fees.

The sisters claim Sugar manipulated their frail mother to gain control of her wealth. After they petitioned to have their mother declared incompetent in 2010, the court made Stern a ward of the state and appointed Comprehensive Personal Care Services as guardian.

Until then, the Sugars had been managing Stern’s affairs, but Comprehensive Personal Care Services replaced them and filed suit for elder abuse and civil theft.

Settlement agreements reached in 2011 required Judy Sugar to repay $750,000 out of her inheritance from Stern’s trust. The agreements also included confidentiality clauses barring the parties from making or encouraging “negative, disparaging or derogatory” statements about each other.

Messianu’s recent petition against Sugar claims that he’s violating the confidentiality provisions in the settlements. It says Sugar has engaged in “a brazen pattern” of spreading false information through various media outlets, including the Miami Herald, radio interviews, social media posts, YouTube videos and publications on Sugar’s website.

“Sugar’s continued breach of the settlement agreements must be enjoined to stop his wanton and malicious publication of libelous accusations against the guardianship court and the parties, which have no basis in fact,” Messianu, a partner at Lubell Rosen, said.

Full Article and Source:
Probate Court Critic Shoudl Pay for Breaching Settlements, Estate Guardian Says

See Also:
Fight Over Big Estate Draws Fire for Running Up Legal Fees