Monday, May 13, 2013

TX: Woman's Costly Court Battle Prompts Call for Reform of Guardianship System

Ninety-one-year-old Sophie Paulos spent three months and more than $30,000 proving to court officials that she was competent enough to run her own life.

Two of her daughters had told a local judge that they suspected Paulos was being financially exploited by family members. They said they were worried about her health. They questioned whether she was mentally sound.

By the time the three-month ordeal was over, Paulos says, she had paid $30,000 for court-appointed lawyers she never wanted and another $70,000 on related legal expenses.

“I was humiliated,” said Paulos, who is frustrated with court officials who she says drove up the bills. “I had to pay for this and they don’t care.”

Now Paulos’ son-in-law — former Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs — is holding her case out as an example of how the guardianship system needs reform.

Since Paulos’ case was settled in October, Suehs has been connecting with legislators and guardianship advocates who say people are unfairly dragged through the courts and forced to spend thousands of dollars to protect their independence. Now they’re pushing for changes that would require speedier hearings and force courts to prove they need to intervene before launching full investigations. The proposals have drawn support from AARP and Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth.

But lawyers and judges say the proposed changes would leave people more vulnerable and throw unnecessary roadblocks into the process.

Adult guardianship cases are essentially lawsuits designed to ensure vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities are not abused, neglected or exploited. A probate court must determine whether people are competent enough to keep themselves safe and healthy. If a judge deems they are not, he can appoint a guardian to make medical, financial and other decisions for them.

Between September 2011 and August 2012, more than 4,500 adult guardianship petitions were filed in probate courts across the state. Of those, 206 were filed in Travis County.

Those involved in the process say people often need guardians for reasons such as dementia or failing health. But sometimes people who need help don’t realize it or can’t recognize the signs of trouble, said Travis County Probate Court Judge Guy Herman. They don’t see that they are being scammed by strangers or giving away all their money.

Consequently, they balk at the the idea of needing a guardian, Herman said.

“Let’s face it, when there is a guardianship, somebody’s losing some rights,” he said. “It’s a loss of freedom and they’re well aware of it.”

Paulos certainly was.

“I am very hurt that they put this through the court,” she said. “I am not incompetent.”

Full Article and Source:
Woman's Costly Court Battle Prompts Call for Reform of Guardianship System


Anonymous said...

Even if you are deemed incompetent by the courts, they do not have the right to raid an estate with huge fees and cause family conflict and lie, when there are other family members more than qualified to take care of their family member. In Florida, the Judges, lawyers, guardians, are all in on it together, they lie, cause conflict and all kinds of harm just to create the fees! It is a corrupt scam going on all over the USA. Lets hope Texas will be a start for the country and those that cannot protect themselves from the corrupt courts of Guardianship! Come to Florida, please, we need help!

Diane said...

How interesting that it took someone with connections to bring attention and reform to an out of control system. I feel so bad for this woman that was dragged through the corrupt court system; maybe now something will happen. In my opinion, guardianship simply needs to be abolished.

StandUp said...

Wow! They sure got the wrong person, didn't they?

Karen said...

I'm so sorry this happened to her but at the same time, I'm glad to see something good come of her awful experience.

Mike said...

You're a good son in law, Tom Suehs!

honeybear said...

Notice the judges and lawyers didn't even try to explain what went wrong in this case?

Alice said...

This is what gets reform started...they accidentally torment the wrong person and that bites them.

jerri said...

oh yeah they got the wrong person i wish i was a fly on the wall when the miscreants figured out they were nailed but they still have the money wrongfully obtained where is the recourse for restitution? to get it back due to scheming declaring a person to be something they aren't there has to be consequences for actions and inactions and we are all doomed cause anybody can put anything in a petition or the record then it becomes a fact when in fact it isn't a fact but a fantasy good for you mr tom suehs thank you for standing up for your mother in law and all who are wrongfully guardianized and conserved

Anonymous said...

I like the idea that the courts should first have to prove their target is actually incapacitated AND in danger (before they make the target pay anything). But that is not enough. Court appointees should have to reveal to the public their gross income from those appointments (including kickbacks).