Saturday, June 28, 2008

Texas Estate Theft

Texas estate laws make stealing from the dead an easy crime

Attorney Terry Erwin Stork systematically mismanaged or stole from three estates worth more than $800,000 over two decades, according to prosecutors and court records. Each time, elderly people with no living children had chosen him to divide their belongings among organizations and loved ones who usually had no idea they had an inheritance.

An Austin American-Statesman review has found that state laws make it alarmingly easy for the executor of a will — usually a family member, friend or lawyer — to steal or squander what people often spent a lifetime building, frequently with little chance of getting caught. State probate laws don't ensure that a deceased person's assets actually get to heirs — or require executors to tell the heirs they're named in a will.

Full Article and Source:
Breach of Trust

Attorney faces up to life in prison

An Austin attorney pleaded guilty to stealing from the estates of three elderly women that he was in charge of overseeing after their deaths. Terry Erwin Stork will be sentenced Aug. 13 on three felony theft charges. He faces up to life in prison on two of the charges and up to 20 years behind bars on the third.

The American-Statesman reported on allegations against Stork in a December 2006 story about estate theft and how Texas probate laws often cannot guarantee that people's belongings reach their family members or friends after they die.

Full Article and Source:
Longtime attorney pleads guilty to estate thefts

See also:
Estate Theft - Civil or Criminal?

Foster Care Legislation

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a landmark child welfare bill, designed to get children out of foster care and into the homes of their kinfolk.

Dr. Abe Bergman, a pediatrician at Harbor View Hospital who has specialized in foster care help said "If enacted it would be the most significant child welfare legislation passed in years."

The bill is complicated, but its essence is helping relatives take on responsibility for parenting. The bill allows states to provide assistance to relatives who become the legal guardians of children in foster care.

The legislation also authorizes $50 million a year in matching grants to states, local agencies, tribes and private nonprofits for work in connecting foster children to their relatives.

The Bush Administration declared that it opposes the foster care legislation, arguing that the House bill raises "significant programmatic and fiscal concerns."

Full Article and Source:
McDermott wins on foster care

Estate Theft - Civil or Criminal?

Those who mishandle funds often face only civil challenge

Texas law calls stealing from a dead person's estate "misapplication of fiduciary property." Probate Judge Tom Rickhoff calls it plain old theft. He says he has referred dozens of potential cases to prosecutors.

"The culture here was that all the civil lawyers thought every dispute about where money went is a civil matter that should be resolved in a lawsuit."

"It was clear to me that if you take a diamond ring and give it to someone (else), you stole the diamond ring."

"It is without authority, you just stole someone else's property."

However, an Austin American-Statesman review of Texas probate system has found that people accused of the crime are seldom investigated by law enforcement. And according to probate lawyers, judges and prosecutors from across Texas, indictments and arrests are rare.

Dallas probate lawyer David Pyke said estate cases are handled in civil court almost 100 percent of the time. "They put the person you are suing in jail, which may be a good thing for society, but doesn't get you any money. They can't make money in jail."

Full Article and Source:
Fighting the touchy battle of estate theft

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Abduction of Amelia

Compiled by Joseph M. Quinn

Amelia Lewis de Gremli; an elderly Shakespearean scholar recently incapacitated by a stroke, speechless, and living in a Carson City, Nevada, nursing home. All therapy & medical care is terminated. With access to her bank accounts, the Duttons purchased a new car, forced her from her home and secretly move her to Bend, Oregon.

In Bend, using Amelia's funds, they purchased a 3-bedroom, 3-bath home. They sell her Nevada home and keep the equity (100%). Amelia's Will is rewritten by the Duttons, naming themselves as beneficiaries. She is then abandoned in a Care Home while they wait for the Will to kick in. At the Care Home, the Duttons leave specific instructions not to provide speech and physical therapy. Amelia's care is paid for by her own monthly Social Security & VA Pension: the remaining is pocketed by the Duttons. She is given no expense money and is allowed to go without such necessities as "toothpaste." Her remaining assets are liquidated as the Duttons purchased RV vehicles and provided ongoing financial assistance for their three adult children.

For six years Amelia is kept a prisoner; physically by the Duttons, mentally by her own aphasic condition. All attempts to contact Amelia are intercepted by the Duttons: they block Amelia's repeated attempts to contact her old friends, including her only living relative, a sister.

In August, 1991, after numerous unsuccessful attempts, she miraculously and secretly managed to have a letter (without a street address!) delivered to her Nevada friends. In a child-like aphasic sprawl, the letter consisted of the word, "Help."

Oregon’s laws on elder abuse were changed because of Amelia’s plight.

The Abduction of Amelia Lewis de Gremli

See also:
A former resident of Carson City who should be remembered

Elderly Kidnap Victim Lived Role She Played On Stage

The woman who put a face on elder abuse

A Horrible Divorce

This post has been deleted at the victims request.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Professional Guardian Task Force

The aging population is prompting the state of New Hampshire to look at who will help care for the elderly as their numbers increase.

David King, administrative judge of the state Probate Court system, has formed a "Task Force on Professional Guardians" to address the expected increase in demand for legal guardians for the elderly.

Hillsborough County Probate Judge Raymond Cloutier is heading the task force. It will consider qualifications and training for professional guardians and look at ways that courts can help family members serving as guardians.

Full Article and Source:
Aging NH population prompts look at elderly guardians

Comfy Care

My father in law has pneumonia, high blood pressure, high pulse rate, and fever. He has had it at least since last Wednesday when they took him to the hospital. At first they were giving him oxygen, and antibiotics, and IV’s. As of yesterday, they have put him on what is called "COMFY CARE". They took him off the antibiotics, and IVs, and all of his medication. Unless he shows signs of pain, then they will give him morphine (which will cut back his lung capacity), and that will cause him to die a lot faster. It is just a matter of time now.

I sat in my father-in-laws hospital room all night, and will do the same today because he is now at the end of his life. We have not seen him in the last 3 years, but 3 times until now.

Why were they not taking care of him and seeing to it that he was moved around so that his body wasn't getting so stiff as it is now? Why did they let him just sit in one building and ignore the cries that he made to be home and with his family?

All I can think of is -
where are the guardians and their attorneys now?

See also:
What Happened to Freedom?

Denton County Judge and Guardian

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Non Sequitur - Estate Planning

See also:

When he launched Non Sequitur a decade ago, Wiley Miller knew he didn't want a running joke. So he took the name of his strip from the Latin phrase for "it does not follow" and created a comic that features no central character.

The Legal Lampoon: A Biased, Unfair, and Completely Accurate Law Review from Non Sequitur

Summarizing the Guardianship Racket

Over and over, we are hearing tales of horror and woe associated with involvement with and within these guardianships.

Family members are being removed under the doctrine of ‘best interests’ from family on exaggerated and false charges. Family can do no right. These guardianships can do no wrong, and are not held accountable for abuses or funds.

The elderly person's situation does not get better, in fact, notably, conditions worsen to a marked degree in a short period. Loved ones can do nothing.

The elderly person's money disappears at an alarming rate. There is no accounting of the funds to family members. Protective laws are ignored. No attorney can or will help. Family members seek help but issues sit in attorneys office and nothing is ever done. Meanwhile the elder person suffers, family members are treated as criminals when they try to help.

The abuses of the guardianship are overlooked by the judicial system, whereas family must tow the line to a completely different standard of behavior.

People are robbed of their life savings and die in poverty and in abusive conditions. No one can or will help. Meanwhile, as the elderly persons suffers, family members suffer, third parties are gaining financially from this horrible mess and great abuse.


Oftentimes, it is a matter of merely educating family on guardianship or care but this is usually not the option. Once in these guardianships, family members and loved ones are not allowed to see the records. Thus, these guardianships are protected from any checks and balances on their actions.

The legal system seems to be ignoring this very serious situation and those attempting to bring awareness are attacked and vilified.

Free Nancy - Conservatorship Reform

See also:
Help Free Nancy

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Connecticut Probate Injustice

The outrageous story of Daniel Gross - the elderly New York man who was held against his will in a Waterbury nursing home in 2006 by order of the probate court, merely because he happened to get sick in Connecticut. He was freed when a Superior Court judge intervened, calling the Gross case "a terrible miscarriage of justice."

Gross has become a symbol for families across the country who believe the rights of the elderly and infirm are being violated by overzealous courts eager to appoint conservators and lawyers who earn fat paychecks "representing" the unfortunate.

Now, Gross' former court-appointed conservator, Kathleen Donovan, has returned to Waterbury Probate Court — the place Superior Court Judge Gormley said had no jurisdiction and no business inserting itself into this old man's life. She is seeking $39,195 from Gross' estate for her work keeping this elderly gentleman locked up in a local nursing home. That consists of 261.3 hours of work at $150 per hour.

This filing popped up on the probate court docket again, years later, without warning.

On July 13, 2006, Judge Gormley said about jurisdiction:

"The statute is absolutely clear that you can't appoint a conservator of someone's person unless that person is domiciled in the state of Connecticut or resides in the state of Connecticut."

"This gentleman ... has never lived in the state of Connecticut, has lived and raised his three children in New York, his only assets were in New York, his house and his bank account, his driver's license is in New York, his registration is New York, his mail goes to New York. There is to me not a scintilla of evidence supporting residency."

"You can't appoint a conservator of the person for someone who lives out of state ... the man lives somewhere else."

Full Article and Source:
Probate Injustice Returns

Read and Post Comments:
Topix - Probate Injustice Returns

Rick Green's column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at

See also:
How Can This Happen

Judicial Immunity

Connecticut Conservatorship

Family Dynasty Battle

Crean family siblings are battling over a conservatorship for their mother, Donna Crean, waterfront estates, a six-figure sedan and diamond-encrusted belt buckles.

The 78-year-old mother of four became a widow last year. Her husband, John Crean, was a multimillionaire philanthropist and founder of Fleetwood Enterprises, the trailblazing recreational vehicle firm.

Court papers depict a struggle pitting the eldest son, Johnnie Crean, against his brother, Andrew Crean, and to a lesser extent against sisters Emily Crean Vogler and Susan Crean Thomas.

In January, Andrew Crean and Vogler petitioned the court to be named as conservators of their mother, who has Alzheimer's disease.

In the petition, they took aim at Johnnie, arguing that he wields undue influence on his mother. Johnnie Crean objected to the conservatorship and wrote that his siblings raised no concerns about their mother's decision-making when she signed millions of dollars over to each of them.

Full Article and Source:
RV dynasty battles over diamond-studded buckle, mom's care, estates, court records show

Struggling Conservator

Tight financial times are affecting the ability of the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office to take care of conservatorships for properties it obtains through court appointments, according to Sheriff Randy Smith.

Smith wants a fund to be put into place to help the sheriff’s office restore and maintain properties it obtains when owners fail to care for them as a result of illness, dementia or mental issues.

According to the article, Smith said “There are no funds to operate on them until properties are sold, but I have to maintain them until they are sold.”

Smith added that the Sheriff’s Department must pick up the tab on the properties once the owner’s pension and/or Social Security funds are exhausted.

The department pays for expenses such as appraising the property, lawn care, insurance, home remodeling and preservation before selling it. The Sheriff’s Department has already been spending thousands of dollars to preserve homes. The sheriff is also responsible for any belongings inside the home, such as furniture and appliances, which are also sold.

Full Article and Source:
Sheriff’s office struggling -Taking care of conservatorships tough in tight financial times

Monday, June 23, 2008

Court Disbars Lawyer

The Court of Appeals found that H. Allen Whitehead violated the rules of professional conduct when he used $600,000 of estate assets to purchase a rent-stabilized residential property.

Whitehead later repaid the estate in full. Judge Lynne A. Battaglia wrote on behalf of the majority, “removal of the $600,000 without court approval was clearly a misappropriation.”

Whitehead was appointed conservator by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for the estate of Reginald V. Grayson, an adult disabled ward. It was Whitehead’s first appointment as a conservator.

According to the opinion and Whitehead’s own admission, he failed to familiarize himself with the District of Columbia rules regarding conservatorship. Whitehead was not aware he needed prior court approval to pay himself $40,200 in legal fees, or to use any assets of the estate. Whitehead had given the estate a note, deed of trust and assignment of rents. After becoming aware of his misconduct, Whitehead repaid the legal fees and paid the note in full with interest.

Whitehead was ultimately disbarred. Whitehead took exception to the findings that he only repaid the estate because the probate division asked about it and that he engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.

The court denied the exceptions. The court said Whitehead’s motivation was irrelevant.

“He intentionally took the money out of the conservatorship; its utilization, or lack thereof, does not alter the character of the misappropriation.”

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Reta Cook Pleads Mercy

"I do not have Dementia!"

Reta Cook begs the County to quit pressuring her and trying to control her money and life.