Saturday, June 6, 2009

POA Measure and Revised Guardianship Laws

SB314 erases limited power-of-attorney laws and replaces them with a much broader act proposed by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. The power-of-attorney measure is aimed at protecting Nevada seniors from abuses by caregivers and, in some cases, their own children.

Lora Myles of the RSVP CARE Law Program, which assists seniors, called the passage and approval of the measure "a major accomplishment."

Myles: "Before SB314, Nevada was rated as one of the worst states in the union as far power of attorney legislation. Now we have precise, wonderful protections for seniors and anyone who executes a power of attorney."

Key provisions of the uniform law include a clear statement of duties for an elderly person's representative, and stringent standards for selling property or altering an estate plan.

SB313, another approved bill, revises Nevada's laws on guardianships, in line with suggestions from the uniform law commission, the National Guardianship Association and Nevada Guardianship Association.

Myles said the measure addresses interstate jurisdiction over guardianships, and referred to it as "the granny kidnapping law" because it applies in cases such as seniors being taken across state borders.

Full Article and Source:
Senior legislation considered

See also:
National Guardianship Association - Certified Guardians

Lawyer Appears to Contradict

A prosecutor went after her own witness by asking Brooke Astor's longtime lawyer if he served the socialite - or her son.

An outraged Henry Christensen, who spent seven days on the stand describing how Astor's son bullied his senile mother into handing over her fortune, was indignant.

Christensen: "I gave 15 years of devoted and undivided attention to Mrs. Astor, and I was fired. I resent the suggestion that I was doing anything other than what she requested."

Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Loewy went after Christensen a day after he appeared to contradict his earlier testimony by giving a qualified "yes" to the key question of whether Astor was competent when she changed her wills to benefit Marshall.

Earlier, Christensen said Astor was able to "tinker around the edges" of her will but was not "competent to sign an entirely new will."

Zeroing in on Christensen's testimony that Marshall pressured his mom into giving him her Maine estate, Loewy asked the lawyer if he drafted the change that Astor wanted to her will that would have given her grandson the $5.5 million property upon her son's death.

Christensen admitted he didn't do that because Marshall "didn't want her to do that." He insisted he was not serving two masters.

Full Article and Source:
Prosecutor comes down hard on Henry Christensen during Astor trial

See also:
Brooke Astor - Anthony Marshall Trial

Forum on the Ins and Outs of Guardianship

Easter Seals Arc and the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Northeast Indiana are working together to host an informational forum on the ins and outs of guardianships in relation to those with special needs. This event will be held in the meeting rooms of the Allen County Public Library, in downtown Fort Wayne, on Tuesday, June 16, from 6 – 7:30 p.m. There is no cost to attend.

The purpose of this forum is to address a growing need to educate both parents and caregivers about the complex and sometimes frustrating facets of guardianships in relation to special needs, and to inform them of individuals and agencies that can help to provide the support they need. Attendees will become familiar with:

• Why parents sometimes need to establish guardianship of their children
• Power of Attorney (POA)/Healthcare Representation vs. Guardianship
• The legal process
• What is a Guardian Ad Litem
• Roles and responsibilities of being a guardian

There will also be a question and answer period featuring Magistrate Phillip Houk; Allen County Superior Court, Attorney Stephen P. Griebel; Van Gilder & Trzynka, Attorney Catherine S. Christoff; Christoff & Christoff, and Julie Cameron; National Certified Guardian and President of the Indiana State Guardianship Association.

Full Article and Source:
Easter Seals Arc to host guardianship forum

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Right to Life

One day several months ago on a main highway which passes through the town in which I live, both sides of the road were packed, knee deep, with people of all shapes and sizes. Something big was happening here. There were mothers with baby carriages and fathers with their kids perched up on their shoulders. I saw grandmothers and grandfathers. They were white, black, Asian, Hispanic. Some were sitting and others were standing. I had never seen anything like it, so naturally, I was curious. As I drove, I slowed down so I could read the signs that some were holding. I soon came to realize that they were supporters of an organization whose members believed in the “right to life.”

Their signs read “Don’t kill unborn babies” and “abortion is murder.” As I drove on I came upon a group of people encouraging the passing traffic with signs containing the words: “honk if you love life.”

I didn’t honk.

It is not that I don't love life. It’s that I know some secrets about life. As an advocate for the elderly, especially those who become victims of abusive guardianships and conservatorships, I have seen first hand the possible nightmares that are in store for the “babies” that this crowd so diligently fights to bring into this world.

When the “baby” grows old and frail there are no demonstrations when all their civil and constitutional rights are taken away or when the “baby” is isolated from the people and places they know and love, removed from their homes and warehoused in institutions where they will be forced into incontinence, subjected to physical, chemical and psychological restraints against their will and have a perfect stranger appointed by the court who will ignore the wishes of the baby and instead will make all of the decisions for the rest of the “baby’s” life.

The stranger is given the misnomer of “guardian”. The crowd holding up their signs might be shocked to learn that this “guardian” can not only dictate how the “baby” lives, but also how the “baby” dies.

You might find this hard to believe, but just ask Sarah Harvey. Her husband Gary is lying in a hospital bed in New York while a group of people, some of which might have even been a demonstrator once, are meeting to discuss removing her husband’s feeding tube which will cause him to experience a slow, agonizing death. Sarah’s one wish is for her husband to come home to die. But, the “guardian” who makes the decisions for the “baby” refuses.

And this is just one example of why I could not bring myself to honk.

Dying With Dignity - Guardianship Abuse

See also:
Not Happy With Treatment

Crist Signs Legislation

Governor Charlie Crist signed legislation:

Senate Bill 1018, Relating to Guardians Ad Litem

Sponsored by Senator Arthenia Joyner and Representative Kelli Stargel

Senate Bill 1018 expands Florida’s ability to provide children with representation by a guardian ad litem during divorce or related proceedings. Currently, the court must appoint an attorney pro bono or paid for by the parents. Senate Bill 1018 expands the opportunity for a guardian ad litem to act in the best interest of the child, providing the court with an impartial perspective of the best interest of the child.

This legislation allows for a person certified by a not-for-profit legal aid organization to serve as a guardian ad litem in divorce or related proceedings. It also clarifies that only certified guardians ad litem may serve in dependency cases involving child abuse, abandonment, or neglect. In addition, it creates criminal penalties if a person makes a false statement in an application to become a guardian ad litem.

Senate Bill 918, Relating to Florida KidCare Program

Sponsored by Senator Nan Rich and Representative Jimmy Patronis

Senate Bill 918 builds on improvements made in 2008 to the Florida KidCare program by increasing enrollment eligibility and improving administration and implementation procedures. The legislation provides more immediate health care coverage, decreases the time required for determining eligibility, and streamlines the financial eligibility process by allowing electronic verification of family incomes. Under the new legislation, more than 54,000 children will be eligible for KidCare.

Governor Crist Signs Child Advocacy Legislation

Judge Files Suit Over Budget

Mahoning County's Probate Judge is going to court to get the funding he says he needs.

Judge Mark Belinky filed a complaint with the Supreme Court of Ohio asking the justices to order Mahoning County Commissioners to fully fund his operation. In their 2009 budget, commissioners set aside less than $700,000 for Probate Court, more than $200,000 short of Belinky's request.

This isn't the first time Commissioners have been sued over the Probate budget. They lost a similar complaint filed six years ago.

Belinky says he's requesting an expedited decision in the case, telling us he's in danger of running out of money for his court by October.

Probate Judge Sues Over Budget

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Not Happy With Treatment

Sarah Harvey says she’s not happy with the treatment she says her brain-injured husband is receiving from the Chemung County Department of Social Services.

Harvey’s husband Gary has had a permanent brain injury for over three years. She lost guardianship over him to Chemung County more than two years ago. She says losing that right was a big blow and since then has been fighting to bring her husband home.

In 2006, 55-year-old Gary Harvey had a heart attack and fell down the basement steps, striking his head, and leaving him with the brain injury. He’s been in assisted care at the Chemung County Nursing Facility for years. Sarah says she’s taken issue with the quality of care Gary has received. She says no one paid attention to her complaints. So to draw attention to Gary’s suffering, she cut his tube.

Since then, she say’s she’s only been allowed supervised visits, has no say over her husbands medical care, and is afraid the county is going to instate a DNR.

Chemung County attorney Bryan Maggs: “The Department of Social Services was appointed as a guardian and has done an excellent job of managing this very difficult situation. The county will continue to act in Mr. Harvey’s best interest, with court oversight and guardianship responsibilities.”

Source and Video:
Dying with Dignity

See also:
Held Captive

Cutting Judges to Save Money

Bennington County has already gone from two probate judges to one and Rutland, Windham and Windsor counties will also each be losing a probate judge in less than two years.

Sen. Richard Sears said other legislators wanted to shut down a probate court and a probate judge in each of the counties in order to save money.

Sears: "It's purely over budget issues, over the ability of the court to deal with the financial crisis we have and making the positions sustainable."

Sears said he worked out a compromise with his colleagues and the court administrators which could preserve the two court locations in each county.

Full Article and Source:
Southern counties to lose probate judges

Locked in Shed and Robbed

FL - An elderly man had to use a chain saw to escape a storage shed after two thieves locked him inside.

The 75-year-old man told deputies he saw two juveniles pass by his home as he walked into a storage shed. He turned to see one of the juveniles close the door on him.

He had to use a chainsaw to cut a hole through the door. He crawled out and found his home on Lake Como Drive burglarized.

The thieves have not been caught, and investigators don't have a strong enough description of them.

Investigators hope to get a tip from someone. Call Crime Stoppers at 1-88-277-TIPS. You'll remain anonymous and could receive a cash reward of up to $1,000 if your information leads to an arrest.

Putnam County Thieves Lock Elderly Man in Shed

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Guardian Sues Nursing Home

The guardian of a disabled 95-year-old woman says the elderly resident fell and fractured both of her hips while under the care of a Madison County nursing home.

Hazel Timmons, guardian of River Reed, filed a suit against Stearns Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on May 21 in Madison County Circuit Court.

Reed lived in the nursing home from May 25, 2007, through July 7.

According to the complaint: When Reed was admitted to the nursing home, employees were aware she suffered from Alzheimer's and dementia and was usually disoriented and confused. Nevertheless, employees allowed Reed to wander unattended in the hallway during the middle of the night on May 29, 2007. During her walk, Reed fell and fractured her left hip. On June 6, Reed was left unattended in a wheelchair and without a personal alarm. And, again, she injured herself when she fell.

Full Article and Source:
Nursing home sued over 95-year-old resident's fall

Paralegal Dupes Lawyer

A paralegal pleaded guilty to duping an 84-year-old attorney who was suffering from the onset of dementia into selling his law office for a $20 bill.

Mario David Abernathy was sentenced to two years in state prison for felony grand theft from an elderly person. He was also ordered to pay $15,300 in restitution to the victim. In addition, the grant deed and documents transferring the victim's law practice, estate and finances to the defendant and his family were ordered to be declared null and void.

The Orange County Public Guardian obtained temporary conservatorship to protect the financial holdings of the attorney, whose wife of more than 50 years had recently died, in July 2008, according to a statement released by the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

According to District Attorney spokeswoman Farrah Emami, Abernathy, who is informally trained as a paralegal, met the attorney in August 2008 and befriended the victim. Abernathy then started to take advantage of the victim's deteriorating medical condition.

Full Article and Source:
Paralegal admits duping attorney into selling his practice for $20

More information:
Paralegal Bought Elderly Lawyer’s Law Practice for $20


Fleeced by Jamaican Scammers

Faced with the stunning realisation that her aging parents had been conned out of their US$300,000 (approximately J$26.7 million) life savings by Jamaican lottery-scam artists, a South Florida nurse is now in shock and distress.

According to the nurse, in just over one year since her parents fell prey to the Jamaican scammers - who used the trademark ruse that they had won a Jamaican lottery and needed to pay a processing fee - the savings they had accumulated have all but disappeared.

The nurse said: "When I found out, I filed a complaint with the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) and Attorney General's Office to help me get back the money that was sent through Western Union and MoneyGram."

Jamaican law enforcement has confirmed the case, but asked that the nurse's identity not be revealed as it is an ongoing investigation.

Fearful that the scammers will continue to target her parents, she said she has acquired the services of an attorney and is now seeking to get temporary guardianship of her parents, which would give her control over the remainder of their savings.

Full Article and Source:
Elderly US couple fleeced of J$26.7m

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Family Battling Guardianship May Go to Jail

Nieces of 93-year old Lydia Tyler say their aunt was targeted with an unwarranted guardianship as a tactic for looting assets from her multi-million dollar estate. A legal battle to have the guardianship revoked and to compel an accounting of her financial status may land two of the nieces, Mary Lynn Drabik and Mary Sue Richards, both of Phoenix, in jail.

The two women say Cook County Probate Judge Maureen E. Connors has allowed the counsel for one of the delinquent fiduciaries to press false “direct criminal contempt” charges as a result of the women’s continued pursuit within the civil court system to protect their aunt’s interests from what they believe is a coordinated effort on the part of Tyler’s guardians and associated parties to deplete her estate.

Ruling was issued Friday, May 29, to bar Drabik and Richards from further involvement in resolving their aunt’s affairs. Judge Connors has scheduled ruling for 10a.m. Wednesday, June 3, on the contempt charges. Drabik and Richards face a fine of up to $500 and/or three days in Cook County jail.

Guardianships have become controversial as families across this country learn the increased commonality of these probate instruments being abused as targeted individuals experience a deprivation of their liberty and a looting
of their assets.

Photo ops as well as interviews with the family will be available.

WHO: The Family of Lydia Tyler

WHAT: Cook County Probate Judge Maureen E. Connors’ Ruling on “direct criminal contempt” charges against Mary Lynn Drabik and Mary Sue Richards.

WHEN: 10: a.m. Wednesday, June 3, 2009

WHERE: Richard J. Daley Center
Court Room 1814
50 West Washington Street
Chicago, Illinois 60601

See also:
Chicago Probate Judge Considers Jail Time in Estate Dispute Case

"Columbo" Placed in Conservatorship

A judge placed former "Columbo" star's Peter Falk in a conservatorship to ensure his daughter could occasionally visit the ailing 81-year-old actor.

Falk's wife of more than 30 years, Shera, will remain in control of his personal care and affairs. Falk has advanced dementia, likely from Alzheimer's disease, one of his doctors testified.

Catherine Falk petitioned in December to take over her father's affairs despite a sometimes contentious relationship with Falk and his wife. By court order, she will be allowed a 30-minute visit with her father every other month.

Full Article and Source:
Judge puts 'Columbo' actor Falk in conservatorship

See also:
Falk's Judge is Reconsidering

Posed as Victim, Stole Thousands

IN - A woman stole a 74-year-old woman's wallet and then posed as the elderly victim to steal thousands of dollars from her account, Indianapolis police said.

Sgt. Paul Thompson said police are looking for the woman and that investigators think she may have pulled off similar schemes in the past.

Wearing a wig, red glasses and a dark jacket, the woman was seen on surveillance images taken inside a bank.

The incident began on May 19, when the victim reported her wallet had been taken at a Marsh store in Nora.

Thompson: "She received a call that two of her credit cards had been fraudulently used at a local store." The total purchases on those two attempts were almost $4,000. Luckily, the store did not approve those particular purchases, and that fraud was prevented."

However, the woman was able to withdraw $6,500 from the victim's account at the National City Bank on North Meridian Street.

Investigators do believe there is a disguise being used by the suspect.
Police asked anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS.

Police: Woman Posed As Elderly Victim, Stole Thousands

Monday, June 1, 2009

Victim Profiles

May 2009 - Elder Abuse Prevention Month
Guardianship Abuse Victims Recognized During Elder Abuse Prevention Month

Judge Appoints Guardian Ad Litem

A federal district judge appointed a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of a Maryland architect who has battled her own lawyer for seven years in a copyright suit against a rival architectural firm and the United Arab Emirates.

Elena Sturdza's suit, filed in 1998 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, has stalled since 2002 when her lawyer, Nathan Lewin, called into question his client's competency to make rational decisions regarding her case. Lewin moved then for an appointment of a guardian, and U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. granted the request.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit this year reversed Kennedy saying Sturdza had not been given ample notice about the proceedings. The appeals court said Sturdza should be given a shot to be heard on Lewin's motion. That hearing was held earlier this month, at which time there was little doubt that Kennedy would re-appoint a guardian for Sturdza.

Kennedy wrote in an order: "Having provided Sturdza notice and an opportunity to be heard, this court again concludes that the motion for appointment of a guardian ad litem should be granted." Kennedy earlier this month also ordered Sturdza to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Appoints Guardian for Plaintiff Who Has Been in Dispute With Lawyer for 7 Years

More information:
Court of Appeals - Reversed Decision

District Court - Order

State Legislature Increases Fees

The Palm Beach County Clerk's Office tells CBS 12 that for the third time in under a year, the State Legislature has increased several court-related fees or added new ones. On Monday, June 1, more than two dozen circuit civil, probate or family fees will change. Additional criminal fees will increase on July 1. The increases are part of legislation initiated by Florida judges and sponsored by Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff and Sen. Ken Pruitt. The state, not the Clerk & Comptroller's office, will receive the additional revenue the fee increases are expected to generate.

The biggest changes pertain to foreclosure cases. Instead of having the same flat filing fee as all other circuit civil cases, foreclosures will now have their own filing fees ranging from $401 to $1,906 depending on the value of the claim.

The general filing fee for all other circuit civil cases increased from $301 to $401. Cross-claim, counterclaim, counterpetition or third-party complaint filing fees, unrelated to foreclosures, increased from $295 to $395. Most probate fees increased by $115, while Unified Family Court fees for adoption and guardianship also increased by at least $100.

The fee increases are part of Senate Bills 2108 and 1718-legislation that also includes drastic cuts to staffing and services of Clerks' offices throughout Florida.

Full Article and Source:
Court Fees Going Up on Monday

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Death Served the Purpose

On Feb 20th, he was found dead in his room. He was a mentally disabled person who required care. The public fiduciary decided to drop his guardianship despite his need for care. But, they kept his conservatorship going because when it all comes down to it, the money is the only entity valued in the Pima County Probate court. Until Judge Munger separated him from his mother, his wife, and his two children -- he lived a wonderfully stable life under their care.

Ultimately, Jan Bernardini paid for a divorce attorney with his mother's funds. His two children were left without a loving father who had previously been stabilized within a structured family environment. He was happy in the family environment and offered a lot of love to his wife, children, and mother. His wife lovingly offered the structure that he needed to keep his disease in check and he went without hospitalization for 7 years. This is almost unheard of with schizo-affective disorders.

His Mother offered both financial support and love as she nurtured this young family. In a fifteen minute hearing, Judge Clark Munger decided without any basis in fact to allow Ms. Bernardini to destroy this family.

There is no public record of the real facts because only Bernardini and her “experts” testimony were allowed. Suffice it to say his wealthy mother spent a considerable annual sum on animal therapy (horses) for her son that was far more successful and far less expensive than the various therapies that had been offered. Until Judge Munger and Jan Bernardini came on the scene, the program was working well. Clark Munger's brother, John, was witness to this family as he kept his horse at the same facility where thefamily kept their horses.

After Clark Munger and Jan Bernardini joined to do their deed, the children and their mother fled Tucson to avoid further harassment (they had been thrown out on the street on a 48 hour notice by Judge Clark Munger). Forest stayed in Tucson keeping in regular phone contact with his "ex" wife and kids. He visited his mom weekly -- the only family member permitted by Jan Bernardini to do so.

He maintained daily contact with his distant family and would relay messages to his mother  that they all loved her dearly. She would ask him to say the same back.

Recently, at the invitation of his “ex” wife and kids, he decided to move out of town to be with them. He had an airline ticket in hand. He was very excited to be with his children.

Perhaps more important, he had decided that he was going to do what he could to make things right. He loved his mom, he loved his kids, and he loved the lady from whom the court had separated him. He made this known!!

His desire to make things right did not serve the purpose of the court and their representatives in Pima County His death certainly serves the purpose of Jan Bernardini and Clark Munger.

God Bless Him!!!!! May his  death help bring an end to this travesty. He will be deeply missed!!!!!

Jan Bernardini and Judge Munger

Youth Inspires Others

Pima County Guardianships

Attorney Bernardini and Judge Munger

May 2009 ~ Guardianship abuse victims recognized during Elder Abuse Prevention Month

Probate Case Continued

A former Jasper County probate case now among those being probed by the state was the subject of a hearing in the Probate Division of Greene County Circuit Court.

While John Hinnah was a ward of former Jasper County Public Administrator Rita Hunter, more than $7,000 was sent as refunds from his estate to federal and state agencies, according to records.

That was part of the overview offered by Gretchen Long, attorney for Angie Casavecchia, the new Jasper County public administrator, in a status hearing on the case. Carol Aiken, Greene County probate commissioner, continued the case for 90 days to give attorneys time to sort out financial issues.

Aiken: “It sounds like a mess.”

Full Article and Source:
Former local probate case continued in Greene County

See also:
95-Year-Old Fights Back

Man Beat Up Elderly

NV - Police are looking for a man they say beat up an elderly victim at a bus stop. The attack happened on May 1, 2009 during rush hour near Sahara and Fort Apache.

The suspect made off with the man's Social Security money.

Police believe the suspect may be known as Ricky. Anyone with information is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 385-5555.

Police Hunt Man Who Beat, Robbed Elderly Victim