Friday, September 12, 2008

Saved from Government-Sanctioned Starvation

Heart attack victim Janet Rivera, who, like Terri Schiavo, was denied food and water for 11 days in July, was saved from the specter of death by starvation Sept. 9, when her brother was named her permanent conservator.

The victory marks the final win for the Rivera family who has fought unceasingly for her life since she was placed in the hands of Fresno, California government officials in June. Rivera's public guardian ordered her death by starvation in July and had her feeding tube removed.

Public outcry ensued and Rivera's feeding tube was reinserted.

Judie Brown, president of American Life League in response: "Praise God, this woman was snatched from such an excruciating death." "Janet was spared the fate of Terri Schiavo, but still we hope this case exposes the threat that hangs over us all - government euthanasia for the sick, elderly and disabled."

Disabled California Woman Saved from Government-Sanctioned Starvation

See also:
Public Guardian Replaced by Coroner

Probate Attorney Jailed

Charles Barnes has worked as a probate attorney for many years, and now he stands accused of embezzlement and forgery. Prosecutors say he spent nearly $150,000 that belonged to a client. The prosecution says he was holding the money for a family's estate, but when they tried to get it back, it was gone.

According to court records, Barnes was hired in February, 2007, to handle the probate of Faye Glenn's estate - including her checking account, transferred to Barnes' Attorney Trust Account at BancFirst.

Court records say that Barnes told investigators that he had spent the money because he had gotten into a financial hole. Investigators say that Barnes later attempted to cover his tracks by writing the family a check from his wife's account that he knew was closed. He is also accused of forging his wife's signature on that check.

According to Stephens County District Attorney Bret Burns, despite the fact that Barnes was supposed to reimburse $150,000 to the executor of the estate, Barnes had yet to do so after the probate period ended. Burns said:"So there was a large sum of money just sitting there." "They had been asking for that money back for the past year and they got different excuses, until they finally found out it was gone."

Barnes was booked into jail earlier in the week and released on a $148,000 bond - the amount he is accused of embezzling. The district attorney is asking anyone else who may have had a financial problem with Charles Barnes to contact his office or the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

Full Article and Source:
Duncan lawyer accused of embezzlement

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Involuntary Redistribution of Assets

Probate instruments such as wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney are being used to redistribute property in a manner contrary to the intended wishes of hard-working Americans. These are folks who mistakenly take the "bait" put forth regarding estate planning documents. Lawyers are the first to extol the need to avoid "the high cost of probate" or "government intrusion" as well as to protect one´s estate from "greedy heirs and lawyers." During this process, however, the real "switch" potential is rarely discussed. That is, members of this same industry (maybe your lawyer) turning the tables and using your estate documents to deny assets to rightful beneficiaries/heirs and instead perpetrating an Involuntary Redistribution of Assets (IRA). Disgruntled family members excluded from the plan or else wanting more than their specified share easily connect with attorneys willing to assist. It´s an unflattering reflection on the legal industry but with this backdrop, IRA actions are quietly happening everyday.

Estate planning that includes applicable legal instruments (will, trust, powers of attorney - medical and otherwise, etc.) continues to be a critical component of any financially responsible person´s life. People must, however, become aware of estate management´s dark side. The dangers posed by unscrupulous attorneys, a pay-to-play legal system and would-be looters with an inflated sense of entitlement are increasingly visible. IRA actions are affecting Americans from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. With the large transfer of wealth coming in the next 20 or so years, these cases will likely skyrocket. People think proper estate planning will protect them – wrong! People think they don´t have enough assets to be a target – wrong!! There is no inoculation from the threat of IRA. Forewarned, however, is forearmed.

Estate of Denial will continue to "shine light on the dark side of estate management" in hopes of educating more people regarding the dangers ahead.

Probate and Switch

Monday, September 8, 2008

Trust Funds Failure

Funds tapped for fees, not for their needs; Lawyers, courts fall short on oversight

In 2006, close to $50,000 sat in a trust fund that was intended for Paul Riley.

But over 22 years, not a dime was ever spent on Riley. Instead, the account has been tapped to pay $17,000 in legal fees, annual investment management charges of nearly 2 percent of assets, and court fees.

For Riley and many of the 910 other mentally retarded adults for whom the trust funds were created, little of the estimated $30 million in the accounts is ever spent on their behalf. Instead, the money has been siphoned off for bank management charges and legal bills. And for fees charged by the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court system, which has long neglected its obligation to ensure the funds are expended for the benefit of some of the state's most helpless citizens.

A Globe investigation found serious failures at every level of the system. In most probate courts there has been scant oversight of the trust funds. The bank trustees, who manage investments for the funds, failed, in many cases, to file required financial reports for several years. And most of the personal trustees - the individuals who decide when to tap the trusts for people like Riley, and who almost always stand to inherit leftover funds - did not spend anything for their mentally retarded wards.

For years, probate judges had ample opportunity to step in on behalf of the trust beneficiaries, but did not. In Riley's case, for instance, judges three times appointed lawyers to review his trust's spending. Yet neither the attorneys nor judges who received their reports ever noted that Riley received no benefits from his trust fund.

Full Article and Source:
Trusts for mentally retarded neglected