Someone I loved very deeply was the victim of abuse by the Probate Court, which destroyed her whole life and precipitated her premature death.
The judge has sole control of guardianship. Guardianship is a dictatorship.
I met Gretchen in the mid 1980s. We started dating in 1998. Around
2000 she developed Parkinson’s disease. By the end of 2008 she also had
dementia. I took care of her at home so she would not have to go into a
I filed a petition for guardianship in 2011. Since it was a contested
case, the court appointed a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) and temporary
professional guardian as “disinterested” parties.
My first attorney negotiated a temporary agreement signed by all
parties under which I would continue to manage Gretchen’s daily care and
All of Gretchen’s doctors said she should stay at home under my care.
In July 2012 the guardian put Gretchen into a nursing home while I was
away on vacation, without prior notice.
I should explain: I was planning on going to dance camp with Gretchen
as we had done every year for many years. The professional guardian
refused to allow Gretchen to go, on the grounds that it would not be
safe because of her Parkinson’s and the rustic nature of the camp. She
demanded that I go by myself. I have a letter from the camp manager
saying that the camp is handicapped accessible. People no longer able to
dance are welcome to come to be with their long-time friends.
Gretchen’s daughter had wanted to put Gretchen into a nursing home so
she could live in her house. That was what triggered the petition for
guardianship. Gretchen did not have a lawyer at the time.
Gretchen’s son did not want her in a nursing home. However, he
supported the plan to put Gretchen into a nursing home “temporarily” so I
could be removed from Gretchen’s house with a restraining order. That’s
what happended while I was away. Then the guardian double crossed
Gretchen’s son by keeping her in the nursing home permanently.
When I returned from vacation, the GAL and professional guardian got a
restraining order preventing me from visiting Gretchen in the nursing
home. Without court authority, the guardian removed Gretchen from my
At the hearing on the restraining order I testified that none of the
complaints in the affidavit for the restraining order were correct. The
judge allowed the restraining order that was based entirely on hearsay
and double hearsay.
In the nursing home Gretchen was required to sit in a chair all day.
This went directly against the advice of Gretchen’s neurologists who
said she needed to stay as physically and socially active as possible or
she would go downhill.
Despite her Parkinson’s, Gretchen was very physically active. She
loved all kinds of dancing. The picture on page one is from a vintage
We went ballroom dancing a few nights a week. Gretchen went for daily
walks (weather permitting), especially around the lake near her house.
She went to the movies, visited with friends and relatives, worked out
at the health club, went to dance events and dance camps. Her doctors
said her condition was approximately stable.
Within weeks after being placed in the nursing home, Gretchen had
lost the ability to walk on her own. Gretchen’s son and his wife filed
strong complaints with the guardian regarding Gretchen’s inactivity and
rapid decline. The guardian hired an attorney (paid for out of
Gretchen’s estate) and instructed them not to communicate with her
except through her attorney.
My first attorney was being treated for cancer and unable to continue
on the case. I hired a high-level Elder Law attorney. I asked him to
file a complaint with the court regarding Gretchen’s lack of proper
care. He told me we had to work through the GAL and the temporary
professional guardian. The guardian ignored the complaints by my
Gretchen’s daughter-in-law (Reference 1) says Gretchen was being
drugged in the nursing home. This was unnecessary, harmful, and can be
fatal. Gretchen’s condition continued to deteriorate. In December 2012,
Gretchen’s son and his wife filed a blistering complaint with the court
asking for the removal of the guardian. The judge did nothing.
In late December 2012 Gretchen suffered an unexplained incident in
the nursing home. Her left wrist and left angle were swollen. Gretchen’s
doctor at Lahey Clinic recommended physical therapy for her ankle. The
guardian denied treatment, citing the DNR [Do Not Resuscitate] and other
statements in Gretchen’s HCP [Health Care Proxy].
The swelling in her wrist healed fairly quickly. The ankle never
healed. Gretchen spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair. The total
lack of activity accelerated her decline.
By the time of the trial in February 2013, Gretchen was terminal. At a
special session during the trial I testified that there was no valid
evidence in the affidavit for the restraining order. The GAL and
guardian offered no evidence to support the restraining order. The judge
ordered the records of the restraining order sealed to protect my
The judge did nothing about the misconduct by the GAL and
professional guardian. The guardian put Gretchen on hospice care about a
week after the trial without notice to the parties. Gretchen died a few
months after the trial.
I requested recordings of all the hearings in order to file a
complaint. My testimony regarding the false restraining order and
misconduct by the GAL and guardian was missing. According to the Office
of the Chief Justice of the Probate Court, there is no evidence this
testimony was ever given.
PENDING BILL BEFORE THE
The Office of the Chief Justice told me there is a bill
(S.1177/H.3027) before the Massachusetts Legislature proposed by
advocates for the elderly. The purpose of the bill is to provide
guardianship services to “unbefriended” people.
Unbefriended people are very vulnerable. They have no one to complain
to if they are subjected to abuse. Any system for providing
guardianship services to the unbefriended needs to have ironclad
protections against abuse.
This bill gives immunity to guardians. Guardians are already given
immunity by judges of the Probate Court. Regardless of the intent of
immunity, the result has been to create a system of legalized crime
where guardians commit crimes with impunity.
Other health care providers have to carry liability insurance.
Conservators have to be bonded. Guardians should have liability
insurance, not immunity.
A careful reading of the bill shows that the Executive Director of
the Office of the Adult Guardianship and Decisional Support Services is
the only entity given any authority. It is a dictatorship.
I have attempted to rewrite the bill in a way that makes maximum use
of the principles of democracy such as separation of powers (no one has
sole control), checks and balances, accountability (no immunity),
avoiding conflict of interest by putting authority in the hands of
disinterested parties, etc., to prevent the abuse of power (Reference
by Patti Burke Plante
Gretchen was definitely drugged at the nursing home immediately.
This experience was terrible and made our family lose trust in the
system. It was unbelievable what the courts get away with. They make you
feel guilty for fighting for your loved one’s care.
They “say” they are here to help, but feed on the family that are not getting along and pit family members against each other.
The guardian in our case was terrible and there was no recourse. When
we complained or brought up concerns about Gretchen’s care, she got her
own lawyer (paid for by Gretchen’s estate) and we could only
communicate with the guardian through her lawyer.
This was a long battle and at the last day of court we were told that
it was not about Gretchen’s best interest, it was about the law.
I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that this system is definitely broken and something needs to be done.
A bill or act to give these people more power is just ridiculous!
Full Article & Source:
The Horrors of Court-Appointed Guardianship – Gretchen’s Shortened Life