Sunday, April 24, 2016

Campbell~Falk Bill Passes in Tennessee: April 21, 2016

A bill that establishes ward's rights to associate with loved ones (SB 2190) passed the legislature in Tennessee on April 21st and is waiting to be signed by the Governor. Until now, the Tennessee statutes did not declare that persons under the protection of the court have presumed rights to associate with loved ones, or to receive personal mail and phone calls. These rights, and many other civil liberties can be removed from people who are deemed incapacitated by the court. The bill also includes a statement that if an incapacitated person cannot express his or her consent to visitation, a decision can be determined by considering the past history of the relationship. Families may now petition the court for visitation, and if the conservator has wrongly isolated the protected person, the conservator can be assigned court costs. This is a form of accountability that has been lacking in the statutes.

Persons under protection of the court lose the right to access their own assets, which are put into a conservator account and spent down to pay court-appointees for their services, and for the person's care. The expenses are paid out of the estate itself. A person who has been deemed incapacitated (physically or mentally) loses the right to make decisions, vote, drive, carry I.D., use their own cash according to wishes, marry, or hire an independent attorney. 

Conservatorships can happen in many ways. If family is in conflict over who will take care of an elder, and the matter ends up in court, the court can assign a professional conservator to handle all decisions. The removal of rights is the most punitive remedy enacted by civil courts. Most people are unaware that they can lose their rights in America. If an elder ends up in a hospital without Power of Attorney in place, this alone can trigger that person falling under control of the state. Anyone can petition to have an elder's rights removed if they feel a person is neglecting self-care. The same situation applies to a person with a disability. There are many degrees of incapacity and too often, the courts err on the side of protection when other solutions would suffice.

The National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse has teamed up with Catherine Falk's Organization, the Daughter of Peter Falk (known to many as Lt. Columbo), along with Travis and Trudy Campbell to create this bill to bolster the rights of those who no longer have the freedom to make their own decisions. Glen Campbell, who has been declared incapacitated, has been isolated from his eldest children due to his current wife who is conservator. Peter Falk was also isolated from his children by a previous marriage during his later years. Isolation can be used as a form of retaliation by the conservator against families and the incapacitated person due to personal conflicts. Such important decisions made by the conservator are not always in the best interest of the protected person, and many organizations are working to hold conservators more accountable for decisions that can profoundly affect quality of life for those who have lost fundamental rights.

Abuse and exploitation by conservators and attorneys in the probate court systems have been well documented across the nation, as well as in Tennessee. Most prominent in Nashville are the cases of Glen Campbell, Danny Tate, Jewell Tinnon, and Ginger Franklin who fell down the stairs at 52, and woke up from a coma three weeks later to find herself with no assets, no home, and under the control of a conservator. As a result of the many abuses, organizations and legislators are working throughout the country to increase transparency of court proceedings, to ensure full due process, to increase monitoring of fees charged by conservators and attorneys, and to place checks and balances on conservator power. The end goal is to reduce financial exploitation and abuse of those who have lost their rights. For more information or support, google The National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse, The Catherine Falk Organization, and Boomers Against Elder Abuse.

~Catherine Falk & Marcia Southwick


StandUp said...

Go Falk~NASGA. You do so much to lift the spirits of guardianship victims. Thank you!

Anne Marie Caldwell said...

Thank God! I practiced as a psychotherapist at a brain injury facility for 2.5 years and had to walk away. I was physically sick after seeing my patients forced into enduring guardians who were state appointed and did the bare minimum for the patient. Truly, they were imprisoned in group home and doled out percentages of their own funds that their conservators decided were appropriate. They were forced to attend "therapies" that they saw as useless. Such as a "Lego group" and were then denied outings if they did not attend their therapies. I hope something changes. I tried to speak up, but then had no choice but to leave for my own sanity. Thank you so much for all you do.

Claire said...

I am bursting with pride at what you are accomplishing. Thank you from all of us who need this legislation. I know you'll be coming to my state.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful accomplishment! Thank you for your hard work!

Erik said...

Thank God is right! Fantastic news!