Saturday, February 16, 2008

Outrageous Guardianship Fees

In the first six months after real estate mogul Max Farash was declared mentally incapacitated, legal fees and expenses incurred by his guardian, James Gocker, exceeded $800,000.

Gocker spent about 690 hours on Farash business for the period between May 1 and Oct. 31, with his hourly rate at $350, for a total of $241,500.

In addition to Gocker's hourly rate, he billed for expenses such as consultants and abstract searches. Gocker also employed law firm Harter Secrest & Emery to represent him for a total of $455,359 for the six months, which is part of the total bill. Gocker declined to specify why an attorney would need additional attorneys.
Source: Farash guardian incurs more than $800,000 in fees

"Money was a huge factor in this case," said Michael Kutzin, the family's attorney. "There were tremendous fees to be earned here."

Orshansky's amassed an estate worth $2 million. From roots in a poor neighborhood, she became a ranking official of the Johnson administration, where she created the concept of a poverty line. Orshansky - who's helped so many in public service -- had planned that if she couldn't help herself, she wanted to be with relatives in New York, her family says.

Last winter, a Washington judge ordered the senior citizen be brought back to the capital. Now, a Court of Appeals has issued a tough-talking order of its own that puts the judge on the defense. For months, Washington Judge Kaye K. Christian has ordered that she be Brought back there. The judge appointed attorney, Harry Jordan -- who's so far billed Orshansky $42,000 in fees -- to get police if necessary to return the octogenarian to Washington.

Now, she won't have to. A Washington Court of Appeals decision finds "critical errors " in the case. In addition, a second court-appointed attorney, Tanya Castro, failed to even speak with Orshansky, and a valid health care proxy giving Orshansky's niece control was cancelled. Evidence and Orshasky's wishes were ignored. The Court of Appeals says it adds up to "abuse of discretion" by Judge Christian.
Source: Elderly Woman's Wishes Finally Fulfilled After Court Battle

Glasser grabbed national attention, as much for her wealth and the fierce passions of those arguing over who should control it as for the Byzantine legal issues the case raised.

In addition to competing courts in Texas and New Jersey, it featured a $25 million fortune, bitter rivalry between her two children, Mark Glasser and Suzanne Mathews, and dozens of high-dollar lawyers who quickly ran up millions in fees.

"Glasser made the headlines because of the money and because it's sort of a 'Dynasty' kind of thing, but the truth is, this happens in many cases where people have a lot less money," said Shirley Whitenack, a New Jersey lawyer involved in the case.
Source: Guardianship case lets loose calls for reform

Even if someone is acting in good faith, you never know if it's in the proposed Ward's best interest. Guardianship is usually always about money.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Interview with Norman

An interview that highlights the plight of Guardianship Abuse with Norman Baker, a retired fire-fighter who has seen his assets put in the hands of a court-appointed guardian and was forcibly sent to a retirement home.

See also: Interview with Norman Baker by his attorney

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Grandmother's Story

NASGA Secretary, Elaine Renoire is one of the original founders of NASGA.

Her Grandmother, Mary Gertrude Fisher is a victim of guardianship abuse.

"My Grandmother did all the things older people are advised to do to protect themselves, and yet when she suffered a massive stroke and became defenseless, none of it counted. She gave my Mother her Power of Attorney and added her on her checking and charge accounts. Her will was fair and equal to both her children. This gave her peace of mind that no matter what happened, she'd be all right. But she wasn’t.

After the stroke left her totally debilitated, unable to speak, and defenseless, her son began a campaign against my Mother and Grandmother in pursuit of his inheritance. My Grandmother didn’t know to protect herself from her own son; she didn't think she had to. She was wrong.

My Mother's attorney advised a guardianship would best protect my Grandmother. Not knowing better, my Mother took his advice. Then the court appointed Old National Bank as guardian of the estate and they literally “charged” right in, immediately reversing every financial decision and all the careful planning my Grandmother made prior to her stroke. They charged exorbitant fees for sloppy, amateur, and fraudulent work. They even changed and probated my Grandmother’s will while she was alive. Every unnecessary and outrageous bit of it was ruberrstamped by the judge. We fought like hell and depleted our life savings in legal fees, but still there was nothing my Mother or I could do to protect her from Old National Bank, the lawyers, and the judge."

See also: Abusive Guardianships of the Elderly

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

10 Dirty Tricks of Guardians

Pinellas County Internal Auditor Robert W. Melton lectured at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg on: "Dirty Tricks of Guardianships - The Need for Change."

Using pure common sense, ask yourself a question: Why would this auditor prepare such a list if fraud did not exist? Answer: It does and He would not.

10 Dirty Tricks of Guardians
Written by Pinellas County Internal Auditor Robert W. Melton

1) Guardian creation of a trust: Remove all oversight by the court as a provision of the trust agreement; guardian becomes trustee; provide that the trustee can do whatever they want at their sole discretion.

2) Sell real estate at lowball price: Use "lowball" valuations as a benchmark; don't list property with Realtors; sell to a land trust, where nobody knows the beneficiary; watch property resold a few months later for a huge increase.

3) Maximize your (or your crony's) profit from investments: Hire money manager for "financial expertise" and let the manager select an investment broker; invest in volatile stocks and trade frequently to generate commissions; if you run up a large gain, don't selectively liquidate over time to pay the taxes but hold a "fire sale" to raise funds all in one day.

4) Undervalue beginning inventory: Have a used-furniture "friend" value a house full of antiques for $3,000; "forget" to put some of the more expensive items on the inventory; "forget" to include a $40,000 certificate of deposit.

5) Pay yourself first: Make payment of guardian and attorney fees the highest priority; disregard mortgage payments and let ward's home go into foreclosure; squirrel away money in the attorney's escrow account for possible future expenses.

6) Maintain guardianship at all costs: Keep family members uninformed; if family members try to become guardian, accuse them of stealing; use the ward's assets for legal fights to retain guardianship.

7) Improper financial reporting: Bury asset-management and brokerage fees as aggregate capital losses "due to market fluctuations"; don't classify disbursements separately; file incomplete or incorrect safe-deposit box inventories.

8) Forced incompetency: Visit assisted-living facilities and establish employee contacts; obtain voluntary limited financial guardianship; if there is money in the estate, do paperwork to force an evaluation of competency; get control over everything and the ward loses all rights.

9) Pay your attorney well: Let attorney bill full rate to shop for a computer and set it up for the ward; let attorneys bill their full rate, even if work is done by a paralegal or assistant.

10) Forget to file federal tax returns: Ensure there is a refund; wait till the ward dies; get check without oversight.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mother and Daughter File Suit

Dolores Forste and her mother, Emma France, both filed lawsuits against officials with the Jasper County public administrator's office. The women allege the actions that led to France becoming a ward of the county were not handled properly. Forste's lawsuit was filed in Jasper County Circuit Court, while France's was filed in federal court.

Forste, 67, was arrested in November at her home in Needles, Calif. She has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Feb. 21 in Jasper County Associate Circuit Court. Richard Crites, attorney for Forste and her mother, said the situation that led to France being placed in county custody and Forste's subsequent arrest show that Jasper officials "can't follow the rules." "I've never seen anything this terrible," Crites said.
Source: Woman sues over mother's custody

The lawsuits were filed by a Springfield law firm on behalf of Emma France, 95, formerly of Carthage, and France’s daughter, Delores Forste, 67, of Needles, Calif. Both actions name Hunter, as public administrator, and attorney John Podleski, as attorney for the public administrator’s office.

The federal suit filed on behalf of France seeks $1 million in compensatory damages, plus punitive damages and other costs. The suit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court on behalf of Forste seeks “fair and reasonable” compensatory damages, plus punitive damages and costs.
Jury trials are being sought in both filings.
Source: Mother, daughter file suits against public administrator

More information: An alleged kidnapping

Copy of Complaint: France vs. Hunter

Monday, February 11, 2008

Guardianship - A device to be avoided

Guardianship is created so that one person can take over the decisions of another -- another who has been determined to be incapable of making decisions for him/her self. This imposition is the total antithesis of self-determination principles. Although some still see guardianship as having a benevolent purpose, we must:

Recognize guardianship for what it really is:

the most intrusive, non-interest serving, impersonal legal device known and available to us and, as such, one which minimizes personal autonomy and respect for the individual, has a high potential for doing harm and raises at best a questionable benefit/burden ratio. As such, it is a device to be studiously avoided.

Claude Pepper, U.S. Representative from Florida in the 70’s, and a champion of the rights of older people, made the following statement in a study of guardianship conducted by the Pepper Commission:

"The typical ward has fewer rights than the typical convicted felon. They no longer receive money or pay their bills. They cannot marry or divorce ... It is, in one short sentence, the most punitive civil penalty that can be levied against an American citizen, with the exception ... of the death penalty."

Guardianship frequently removes constitutional rights of individuals. Over thirty states have statutes that deny the right to people under guardianship to marry or vote. The simplest of decisions that we all take for granted can be taken away from the individual and given to another under guardianship. This includes the right to decide where we want to live, what kind of work we may wish to pursue, where we’d like to travel, how we’d like to spend our money, even who we want to spend our time with.

Source: Guardianship is Not Self-Determination by Kathy Harris