Wednesday, April 1, 2015

FOX 4 investigation yields bill seeking to protect elderly | Dallas-Fort Worth News, Weather, Sports  Guardians and attorneys who represent some of Texas' most vulnerable people may be required to start disclosing exactly what they are charging for their services.

A bill before the legislature involves stepping up financial accountability.

“I feel like I am not in America,” Michael Kidd said back in 2009, after the state determined that he and his wife could no longer care for themselves. “I can't believe that I have been high jacked off the street, virtually…imprisoned.”

The state placed Kidd and his wife in a nursing home against their will and took over all of their finances.

It was only after FOX 4 stepped in and aired their story that a judge allowed them to return home, but by then, their finances had been turned upside down.

In Austin on Monday, there were lots of similar stories, and now a bill has been proposed that would require more financial accountability for guardians.

“We have seen attorneys' fees in cases in Tarrant County, Dallas County, Travis County and Bexar Counties in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to represent an elderly person who is trapped,” said Deb Valdez, a guardianship reform advocate.

Virginia Pritchett also testified about her good friend, Denise Tighe, who was also placed in a nursing home against her will 20 miles away from her home.

Pritchett said Tighe had a sizable savings account. She later died with no friends or family with her.

“This guardianship law may have been passed to help people, but instead, it enables the greed to take full financial advantage of the elderly,” said Pritchett. “My friend was never able to spend a day in her home again, simply because she had lots of money.”

State Sen. Judith Zaffarini's bill, Senate Bill 1369, would require attorney and guardians to file a report with the name of each person appointed by the court, the hours they worked and the compensation paid, and those reports would have to be available online and physically at the court.

The senator says the current system requires reporting, but only 40 percent comply.

A Travis County judge testified Monday that he has grave concerns about the bill.

“This, I'm concerned about because it is putting a great burden upon the judge when I don't have enough staff in my office to do it,” said Judge Guy Herman of Travis County Probate Court.

Monday was the first reading of the bill, so it is still early in the legislative process.

Sadly, Michael and Jean Kidd both passed away after FOX 4's stories aired, but they were back in their home, and that is where they wanted to be. 

Full Article, Video & Source:
FOX 4 investigation yields bill seeking to protect elderly


StandUp said...

I remember the story of the Kidds. It is a poster case for guardianship abuse.

Marcia Southwick said...

The fleecing of elders by way of guardianship courts that remove constitutional rights in order to profit must STOP. Transparency when it comes to charges would go a long way towards increasing accountability. Any professional who stands to profit from an elder trapped in guardianship should expect transparency. After all, the system was put in place to PROTECT an elder, not to exploit their situation.

Betty said...

Fantastic. The more transparency, the better.

Good to see Debby Valdez from GRADE testifying too!

Rob said...

I love this, but I also wonder if there will be any penalties for those caught lying!

Finny said...

Perhaps Texas Judge Guy Herman should resign if transparency is too much work for him.

LJ Burnett said...

Thank you for sharing! Our case in Texas has been a cluster of secrecy, possible corruption, and sealing of records. On March 20, 3012, the Judge from Probate Court 2 in El Paso County signed an Order sealing ALL records to include the attorney fees and guardian fees in our case. The Order was authored by the former Executive Director of the National Guardianship Association, present sitting Board member of this organization as well as the Texas Guardianship Association, attorney, Terry W. Hammond. Mr. Hammond proudly boasts on his business website of being the educator to Judges. I have listened to him speak at the Texas Guardianship Association annual meeting where his words conflict with what he does. This Order enabling ALL billing records to be sealed may very well be illegal. We, as advocates have demanded transparency and accountability. How can human lives be protected if notices of court hearings are sealed, records of billings hidden and ZERO interest in the Courts to have ALL parties notified in contested procedures? Families and loved ones are forced now to go to the media in support of our outrage. WHY are records being sealed? To protect the gouging being done to estates as well as indigent county funds. Here in El Paso, Texas, (our case in particular) funds to pay the attorneys defending the perpetrators who have removed family and friends from our beloved "family" member, are being paid by the tax payer. We believe strongly that the indigent fund was NOT set up to pay contested guardianship hearings. Laws in Texas are NOT being followed. Deadlines mandated by the State for guardians to meet are NOT being adhered to. With the sealing of these reports and records, no accountability is being done. Guardians who have been given omnipotence to do whatever they want are running amok in this State. WE, those advocating for the vulnerable are being called liars and witch hunters. We want transparency and the attorneys and private professional guardians to be held to the laws in place as well as the laws we are working diligently to put into place to protect our loved ones. Human lives are being placed into the hands of corporations who limit the quality of life for those who can't speak for themselves. Texas refers to the loss of human rights now as a transfer of rights. Judges across this State are assigning human rights to corporations FIRST rather than respecting estate planning documentation, pre-need requests, powers of attorneys. Our elders and disabled deserve better.

Sue Harmon said...

People churned into products to feed the protection racket, the probate machine. Next case. Read those dockets bulging with petitions for FEES FEES FEES all on the auto approve plan.

Advance directives are ignored so go ahead folks pay lawyers to do your estate planning, execute valid Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Property and pray to God those legal documents have standing and weight to keep you away from stranger danger in a guardianship situation it's all about the money money money.

We're next! Unless you, me, we get mad as hell and do something about it NOW!

Anonymous said...


Texan said...

Thank you Senator Zaffarini. You've got my vote!