Catherine Jacobs, a lawyer with Loomis Law Firm, refused to answer questions from lawyer Douglas A. Mielock during a hearing in Ingham County Probate Court regarding the conservatorship of Paul Hansen.
At the end of the hearing, Judge Richard Garcia appointed attorney Pat Gallagher as conservator for Hansen’s finances and revoked Jacobs’ power of attorney.
“There is some question in my mind regarding the gentleman’s capacity to issue that power of attorney,” Garcia told Jacobs’ lawyer, Philip Dwyer. “More importantly, I don’t believe your client is suitable to be a conservator.”
The hearing is the latest in a volley of motions, petitions and denials tied to Jacobs’ removal from several guardianship and conservator cases over the summer.
Between June and August, Garcia removed Jacobs from her roles as guardian and conservator in several cases and requested an investigation into Jacobs by the Attorney Grievance Commission.
The removals followed court hearings in which Garcia discovered that Jacobs had signed off on a major surgery even though her guardianship for that patient had lapsed; that she had an undisclosed agreement with Sparrow Hospital in which she was paid to petition for the guardianship of certain patients; and that Jacobs’ granddaughter and her granddaughter’s boyfriend were living in the home of a woman with memory impairments for whom Jacobs is guardian and conservator.
In August, Jacobs filed the first of at least four motions to disqualify Garcia from her cases, largely because of the judge's request to the Attorney Grievance Commission.
Garcia has denied Jacobs' requests each time, including one she filed in Hansen’s case.
On Tuesday in Clinton County, Probate Judge Lisa Sullivan weighed in on one of the cases in which Garcia denied Jacobs’ motion for disqualification. Sullivan, who was asked by the State Court Administrative Office to review the case, supported Garcia’s denial of the motion. Sullivan indicated she expects to hear similar motions in other cases.
Mielock attended the Hansen hearing Tuesday as a representative of Crisann Breed, the daughter of Ester Breed, one of three people named in Hansen’s will. Ester Breed, a cousin to Hansen, died Oct. 12.
According to an Ingham County Sheriff’s Office report, Jacobs and her daughter, Mona Darling, were longtime friends of Hansen and, at some point, Darling became Hansen’s power of attorney.
In 2015, the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office began investigating withdrawals Darling had made from some of Hansen’s accounts and Jacobs, who is listed as a recipient in Hansen’s will, took over as his power of attorney.
Darling was arraigned April 17 on a charge of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult, $20,000 or more, and bound over to circuit court in May. She is awaiting trial.
Mielock asked Jacobs in court Tuesday whether she’d ever acted as Hansen’s lawyer; whether she was a beneficiary of any of Hansen’s financial accounts or life insurance; whether she ever borrowed money from Hansen; whether she believed a conservator for Hansen would be responsible for recovering funds from her daughter, Mona Darling; whether she believed Darling took any assets from Hansen; and the extent of her involvement in at least two power of attorney documents drafted in regards to Hansen.
Jacobs responded to each question by asserting her Fifth Amendment right not to testify to avoid self-incrimination.
Jacobs declined to comment following the court hearing.
Probate court investigates Hansen relationship
Earlier in the hearing, Ingham County Probate Court Investigator Sarah Broschay told Garcia she met with Hansen at his Holt assisted living facility Monday, and she recommended Pat Gallagher be appointed Hansen’s conservator.
Broschay said Hansen is being held in a mental deficiency ward. Medical reports from 2014, included in the court record, indicate he has dementia.
“Mr. Hansen would engage in the conversation, but would often need to be reminded of my purpose for being there,” Broschay said in a report filed in probate court Tuesday. “Mr. Hansen seemed to know who Ms. Jacobs was, but did need to be reminded that she was his power of attorney.”
In her report, Broschay also voiced concerns about Jacobs’ oversight of Hansen’s assets because of Darling’s embezzlement charge and the belief that Jacobs limited Hansen’s access to family members over the past several years.
Jacobs stands to inherit about $1.5 million from Hansen's will, Broschay wrote in her report. Hansen’s will was drawn up by a U.S. Army major in 1992, according to documents contained in a police report related to Darling’s criminal case.
The police report also includes the February 2015 document naming Jacobs power of attorney. The document includes a section nominating and appointing Jacobs as guardian and/or conservator if the court orders one be appointed.
In the document, Mieke V. Weissert is named as Jacobs’ successor as power of attorney, guardian and conservator. Weissert is a lawyer at Loomis Law Firm, according to information on the firm’s website.
In court Tuesday, Dwyer said Jacobs had priority to become Hansen’s conservator since she was his power of attorney, but Garcia wasn’t in favor of the idea.
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