FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. - The niece of a Flagler County woman called 9 Investigates after she said the 88-year-old matriarch of her family was taken to an unknown location by a court-appointed guardian.
Lillie White was declared incapacitated five years ago and has been a part of Florida’s Elder Guardianship system ever since.
A court filing stated White was “taken to an anonymous location” by a recently-appointed temporary guardian on Aug. 30, and her family hasn’t seen or heard from her since.
“She was not in danger. There was no emergency situation. There's no justifiable reason for her to be taken from her home,” White’s niece, Teresa Kennedy, said.
A Flagler County judge gave an elder law attorney the role of emergency temporary guardian in July after Kennedy’s mother, who is White’s sister, was removed from her position as guardian due to questions about her ability to provide proper care.
Family members dispute the allegation and said the longtime guardian was not afforded due process during the hearing in which she was removed.
WFTV legal analyst Belvin Perry presided over White’s original guardianship case in Orange County in 2013. Perry recalled a contentious court battle amongst White’s family members over who should control and inherit the woman’s assets, including a substantial trust.
“The judge will appoint a neutral third party to act as guardian so the judge can get an impartial read on what's going on,” Perry said.
White’s case isn’t unique; There are more than 3,000 people currently being cared for through Florida’s Guardianship system; Anyone can petition for a person to be declared incapacitated in Florida, leading to control over their finances and, in some cases, with whom they socialize.
AARP estimated the amount of elder assets being controlled by guardians nationwide to be $1.5 billion.
White’s temporary guardian couldn’t talk about the case, but court records provided to 9 Investigates by White’s family showed the decision to move White to respite care was based upon attorney observations and recommendations of an independent care management consultant. The filing also noted that White “has never once asked about her sister nor her niece and has not asked to go home.”
“I don’t know why they're not telling us where she is,” Kennedy said.
There is a hearing Friday morning for plenary guardianship, which would give the guardian full control over White's every move.
The family said they plan to attend the hearing.
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9 Investigates: Woman says court-appointed guardian took 88-year-old aunt to unknown location