There are many ways elderly, sick and disabled people can wind up in a court-appointed guardianship, where a complete stranger wields total control over their lives and assets. Some are identified as "incapacitated" by paid caregivers. Others are fingered by greedy relatives or rapacious lawyers.
Guardians helped themselves to [Yvonne Sarhan's] $2 million estate while a Florida probate judge ignored her son's desperate pleas to take her off the schizophrenia drug Seroquel, which is contraindicated for the elderly because it causes electrical disturbances in the heart.
An auditor and member of Virginia's Commonwealth Council on the Aging, Brenda Kelley says she's spent $100,000 of her own money fighting the District guardians who barred her, an only child, from seeing her mother, Bertha, while they drained her million-dollar estate and negligently allowed her childhood home to be sold at a tax lien sale for a mere $29,000.
[Stephen]Nero says his mother is inappropriately being held captive in an Alzheimer's facility that charges $6,000 per month. "She is being illegally deprived of her civil and constitutional rights even though there was no evidence on the record that she was ever evaluated as 'incapacitated' -- it was all hearsay. I'm a lawyer and even I can't get her out," a frustrated Nero told us.
Even the young and middle-aged can become "legal ghosts" by court order, as 50-year-old Nashville, Tenn., songwriter Danny Tate described his status after his estranged brother was named his conservator during an ex parte hearing in 2007.
Tate, who has admitted abusing alcohol and drugs, was never charged with any crime. Tate's conservatorship was finally terminated last September, minus the fortune he earned writing music for Rick Springfield and other Nashville legends.
"All of the country's wealth eventually passes through the probate courts," Tate pointed out. "The problem is that probate courts are designed for liquidation, not conservation, but it all gets adjudicated in the same court. All the attorneys are getting paid and nobody wants to get off the gravy train."
Bob Teich uncovered compelling evidence of collusion, conflict of interest, forgery and fraud in the San Diego Probate Court -- including the guardian's refusal to release his minor son's Internal Revenue Service returns.
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Too Often Death is the Only Way Out of Guardianship Gulag
Judges, Lawyers Use Guardianships to Prey on Elderly