A Superior Court judge has ruled that a phalanx of probate attorneys were justified in collecting $576,000 from an 88-year-old widow the court was (supposed to be) protecting. The judge rubber stamped half of the fees without even holding a hearing into whether they were reasonable.
Pro-tem Judge Lindsay Ellis also signed off on the Sun Valley Group helping itself to more than $417,000 in guardian and companion care fees.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca Berch this week announced a new initiative aimed at improving protections for vulnerable people. Among the issues to be addressed: fees charged by court-appointed guardians and fiduciaries.
She could start with the astounding case of Marie Long, an old lady worth $1.3 million when she came under the protection of Maricopa County's probate court in 2005. Today, she's destitute and depends on taxpayers for support.
Which, we are told, is in no way the fault of those who wound up with all of her money.
In a take-no-prisoners 21-page ruling issued Monday, Ellis described the fees that put Marie Long into the poorhouse as “reasonable, necessary and for the benefit of the ward.” She blamed Marie's court-appointed attorney Jon Kitchel along with Dan Raynak and Pat Gitre, attorneys for Marie's sisters, for driving up costs, saying their “venomous” and “hateful” attacks on the trustee, the guardian and their attorneys forced the other side to defend themselves.
With Marie's money, of course.
The opinion was lauded by Sun Valley Group, which withdrew as Marie's guardian when her money ran out in November. Says Sun Valley's CEO, Peter Frenette: “I am grateful for the court's decision as it finds ‘there is no legitimate dispute about SVG or its performance of its duties as guardian for Long.' The court confirmed that this has been an unfair attack not just on SVG but also the guardianship process.”
Full Article and Source:
Judge: Probate Attorneys Were Justified in Taking $576,000 From Old Lady
Read the 21-Page Ruling
Three Racketeering Lawsuits Filed