Saturday, June 13, 2009

Who Owns Your Estate?

By Curt Chancler

Who really owns your estate? In reality you do NOT. The assets, land and property acquired throughout your lifetime can be taken, changed, and/or sold if a Probate Court so decrees. You can write a will and it isn’t worth the paper it is written on if challenged and taken to Probate Court. While statutes decree that the Court is to follow the wishes of the decedent that does not always happen.

Right now in Linn County Oregon a six year probate battle continues to rage between an avaricious Portland, Oregon Northwest Natural Gas Company (NWNG) and their legal firm Stoel Rives; West Coast Bank’s Trust Company represented by Garrett, Hemann, Robertson, Jennings, Comstock and Trethewy of Salem; and their alleged linchpin James Van Horn, stepson to Archie Q. Adams, Sr., represented by Fitzwater & Meyer LLP, Portland and paid by NWNG.

NWNG reportedly also guaranteed West Coast Trust $20,000 to assure they took the position of personal representative. All this in order to strip the inheritance, a lifetime of work for Archie Q. and Ethel Adams, from their children. An inheritance that NWNG continues to assert to the Court is of little value.

Full Article and Source:
Who Owns Your Estate?

Hearst in Conservatorship

The supervision of Phoebe Hearst Cooke’s care and estate is now in the hands of her twin brother and her nephew.

Judge Teresa Estrada-Mullaney ruled Wednesday that George Hearst Jr. and his son, George Hearst III, are the new conservators for the 81-year-old granddaughter of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst.

Estrada-Mullaney ruled after brief comments from attorneys that Cooke’s cognitive state and paranoia make her vulnerable to fraud and undue influence.

Cooke’s family members will oversee her personal care and fortune, estimated to be worth $2 billion.

Full Article and Source:
Family will handle care for aging Hearst heir

See also:
Conservators and Lawyers Line Up

$2 Billion Conservatorship Battle

Penny Slots Guardian

A woman accused of stealing about $34,000 from an elderly woman she was appointed guardian of in order to play penny slots made her initial appearance last week in Douglas County Circuit Court.

Carol Jean Tolliver faces one felony theft charge. She was appointed the other woman’s guardian in August 2006 and was to receive $250 a month for managing her finances. From April 2008 to February 2009, the woman’s bank account shrunk from $99,693 to $800, according to the criminal complaint.

Kathy Izzard, an economic support worker with the Douglas County Department of Health and Human Services who was investigating the case, noted that Tolliver had produced checks that had been written out to a Superior bar and to the bar’s owner from the account.

Tolliver told Superior Police Detective Mike Jaszczak that she wrote the checks out for cash and felt she could do so because her name was on the checks.

The complaint stated that she told the detective that because she has watched over the woman, who resides in a nursing home, “she was entitled to the money.”

Full Article and Source:
Penny slots spur thefts

Friday, June 12, 2009

Audit Finds Fund Mismanagement

A new audit indicates that the past practices of the Cook County Public Administrator's Office cost taxpayers at least $227,871 in missing funds and possibly millions more in sweetheart contracts.

The office is supposed to protect the assets of those who die without a will or with an executor who is incapable. But an audit by county auditor Laura Burman found that before 2003, estate funds were commingled and estates with negative balances were subsidized by others with positive balances.

At least some checks were outright stolen from one estate to the tune of $3,198, and about $3 million was spent on estate services that were questionable, the account found. Burman found that some of the companies hired to "manage" estates weren't even incorporated or registered with the state when they were given the contracts.

Nicholas G. Grapsas, the new county public administrator who took over in November, told county board members that he has since separated each estate and instituted many of Burman's recommendations for cleaning up the office.

Still, he admitted, county taxpayers had to fork out at least $227,871 to make up for a deficit in the office's fund that had to be repaid to the estates.

Full Article and Source:
Cook Co. fund mismanagement cost taxpayers $227,871

“Guardian of Mentally Ill” Probate Case

More information on the Mary Kass case.
See: Battle of Artist Wills

An ailing artist, her wealth and future were flung into the spotlight.

The Boston Globe revealed on its front page sealed court proceedings in the guardianship case of resident Mary Kass, a student of Hans Hofmann in the 1950s in Provincetown and an art patron.
As a result of the sudden publicity local police were posted outside Kass’s East End home on Commercial Street, at the request of her lawyer, until valuables could be removed. That coverage lasted for about 10 hours, police said, at a cost of $32 per hour, just after the Globe story broke.

Kass’s niece and nephew, both from the Washington, D.C. area, filed a lawsuit late last year in Barnstable against Kass’s primary caretaker, resident Elizabeth “Betty” Villari. The case is labeled a “guardian of mentally ill” probate case, with Kass as the ward under consideration.

According to the Globe, the plaintiffs alleged that Villari, a personal trainer who co-owns a local gym, and psychotherapist Mary Ellen Henry, also a resident, took advantage of Kass’s diminished mental state to gain control over her and her assets, including the purchase of three waterfront homes.

Full Article and Source:
Wealthy artist’s competency case made public

She lived in a modest, brown house on a narrow Provincetown street. Few knew of her vast wealth, the valuable works of art she owns. And that is how the intensely private artist apparently wanted it. Mary Kass studied with renowned artists, exhibited her paintings in Provincetown, and displayed her work in Denmark, France, and Switzerland.

Now 74, Kass uses a wheelchair.

Her enormous fortune, estimated at $60 million, is at the center of a legal dispute between her relatives and the personal trainer and psychotherapist whom Kass named as the primary beneficiaries of her estate.

A judge is expected to decide whether Kass needs a legal guardian. If the judge decides Kass cannot take care of herself, two people on opposite sides of the dispute over the estate want responsibility for her welfare: her nephew, Thomas Kass Berger, and her former personal trainer, Elizabeth ''Betty" Villari.

The judge's decision, following a 10-day trial will not determine who inherits Kass's fortune. But her legal guardian, if the judge appoints one, would be responsible for her financial affairs, property, and physical welfare.

Full Article and Source:
Future of Cape artist becomes $60m question - Judge weighs guardianship as 2 sides vie

Drug-Induced Dementia: A Perfect Crime

Under the influence of declining birth rates, expanding longevity, and changing population structures around the world, the global prevalence of senile dementia is expected to increase more than four-fold within the next forty years. Within the United States alone, the number of affected individuals over the age of 65 is expected to rise exponentially from 8 million cases (2% of the entire population in the year 2000), to 18 million retirees (roughly 4.5% of the national census in the year 2040). Although they are striking, these statistics quite likely underestimate the scope of the coming epidemic, as they fail to consider the impact of under-diagnosis, early-onset disease, and the potential for a changing incidence of illness in the context of increasingly toxic environments.

In the face of this imminent crisis, concerned observers have called for policies and practices which aim to prevent, limit, or reverse dementia. Drug-Induced Dementia: A Perfect Crime is a timely resource which reveals why and how medical treatments themselves – specifically, psycho pharmaceuticals – are a substantial cause of brain degeneration and premature death.

A first-of-its-kind resource for patients and clinicians, the book integrates research findings from epidemiology (observational studies of patients in the “real world”), basic biology (animal experiments), and clinical science (neuroimaging and autopsy studies) in order to demonstrate the dementing and deadly effects of psychiatric drugs.

Drug-Induced Dementia: a perfect crime by Grace E. Jackson, MD

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Filial Responsibility Laws

Boomers could get caught by laws already on books in thirty states

Did you know you could be responsible for your parents' unpaid bills? Thirty states currently have laws making adult children responsible for their parents if their parents can't afford to take care of themselves. While these laws are rarely enforced, there has been speculation that states may begin dusting them off as a way to save on Medicaid expenses.

These laws, called filial responsibility laws, obligate adult children to provide necessities like food, clothing, housing, and medical attention for their indigent parents.

According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative research organization, 21 states allow a civil court action to obtain financial support or cost recovery, 12 states impose criminal penalties on children who do not support their parents, and three states allow both civil and criminal actions.

The passage of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 made it more difficult to qualify for Medicaid, which means there may be more elderly individuals in nursing homes with no ability to pay for care. In response, nursing homes may use the filial responsibility laws as a way to get care paid for.

Full Article and Source:
States May Take New Look at Requiring Adult Children to Pay for Aging Parents

More information:
States With Filial Responsibility Laws

Adult Children Could Be on Hook for Parents' Nursing Home Bills

Group Claims Filial Responsibility Laws Will Save on Medicaid Costs

Taking Care of Our Caretakers: Using Filial Responsibility Laws to Support the Elderly Beyond the Government’s Assistance

Adult Children, Aging Parents and the Law

Landmark Ruling

What experts say was a landmark Supreme Court ruling allowed their maternal grandfather, George Smith and his wife Brenda to adopt the children.

The legal battle over their adoption may have ended their relationship with their paternal grandparents, an outcome one attorney involved called heartbreaking.

Smith, whose daughter La Shonda was the children’s mother, and his wife first petitioned to adopt the children in April 2005. That was about a month after their 27-year-old father, Eduardo Silvils, died in a car accident.

Silvils’ parents did not ask to adopt the children but did seek guardianship. Their position was that neither set of grandparents should adopt the children, thus creating a situation where both sets of grandparents had the chance to see the grandchildren regularly.

In 2006 a family court judge supported their position, giving the Smiths primary guardianship of the children but denying adoption. In his order, the judge wrote that it was in the children’s best interest to “enjoy the love, affection and involvement of all their grandparents in their lives.”

The District Court of Appeal upheld that decision. But the Florida Supreme Court ultimately disagreed.

The high court called a split guardianship “the antithesis of the right to permanence and stability that is afforded by adoptions.”

The children also have financial security after a Jacksonville jury awarded them and George Smith $2.83 million in a wrongful death lawsuit filed after their mother’s death.

Full Article and Source:
Jacksonville grandparents adopt after landmark decision

McQuillan Pleads Guilty

A former Jackson County lawyer pleaded guilty as charged to embezzling about $800,000 from the estate of a veteran.

Richard McQuillan admitted to three counts of embezzling more than $20,000. His crimes are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $15,000 or three times the stolen amount, whichever is greater.

McQuillan removed funds three times from the estate of Robert Howard, who died in December 2006, and converted the money to his own use.

Circuit Judge John McBain is to sentence him July 16.

Full Article and Source:
Jackson attorney pleads guilty to embezzling $800,000

See also:
Estates Bled Dry

Attorney Plundered $1Million Estate

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Gary Harvey Story

“Dying With Dignity” (Emma Wright - June 3, 2009) was the title of WENY-TV’s report on the Gary & Sara Harvey story.

This was a story (not fully reported) that has the government, business, staff, lawyers, judges and the so-called ethics committee intruding upon personal family and health care matters; not only intruding, but making life and death decisions for Gary, while apparently excluding Sara Harvey to the point of telling her (to her face) that the decision of the (so-called) ethics committee would be reported to the establishment’s attorney, who would then relay it to her attorney, so if she wanted to know anything, she would have to ask him.

The degree of compassion, or rather, lack thereof, is utterly amazing and far from comforting.

The Ethic’s Committee Consult reportedly held behind closed doors on May 29, 2009 is neither the beginning nor the end of the story at hand. It is merely the latest insult in a long line of events that go back nearly three and one half years. Events that challenge and define and assures us that our lives can change in a spilt second no matter what we might have thought a moment before the devastation devours all the hopes and dreams once held dear.

Full Article and Source:
Behind Closed Doors: The Gary Harvey Story

See also:
The Right to Life

Not Happy With Treatment

Held Captive

Sanity an Issue in Parental Kidnapping Case

A lawyer for the man who calls himself Clark Rockefeller argued that "pure madness" from a longstanding and worsening mental illness drove his client to kidnap his 7-year-old daughter last summer, and urged jurors to dismiss the diagnosis of a prosecution psychiatrist who found the defendant was legally sane.

Defense attorney Jeffrey A. Denner implored jurors to reject the testimony of Dr. James A. Chu, a clinical psychiatrist. Denner said that Chu's 2 1/2-hour meeting with the defendant in jail was woefully inadequate for an accurate diagnosis and that Chu was unqualified because he has no forensic background and works mostly as a hospital administrator.

In contrast, he said, the defense's two mental health witnesses, the psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow and psychologist Catherine T.J. Howe, both have extensive training in forensics and spent 28 hours with Rockefeller over 14 separate sessions before diagnosing him with narcissistic personality disorder and grandiose delusions.

Assistant Suffolk District Attorney David A. Deakin urged the jury to look past the "preposterous diagnosis" by the defense experts. Deakin asserted that Rockefeller had never been diagnosed with a mental illness before his arrest in the abduction and is really a "self-centered, controlling, and manipulative man who was angry" at his ex-wife, Sandra Boss, when she won custody of their daughter, Reigh, and moved with her to London in December 2007.

Deakin: "This is not a case about madness. It's a case about manipulation. Don't let him get away with that. Don't let this insanity defense be the culminating manipulation in a lifetime of lies designed to try to get what he wanted."

Full Article and Source:
Lawyers attack diverging diagnoses

More information:

Doctor says ‘Clark Rockefeller’ faking crazy

First Wife of 'Clark Rockefeller' to Testify at Kidnap Trial

‘Crockefeller’ to Court: My Ex-Lawyer Said Too Much to the Media

Peterson Loses Appeal

The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled against Drew Peterson in a fight over the estate of his late third wife, Kathleen Savio.

The high court let stand a lower-court decision that takes away the former Bolingbrook police sergeant's control of Savio's estate and gives it to her father, Henry Savio, and sister, Anna Doman.

The 3rd District Appellate Court ruled in the Savio family's favor in January. Peterson appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court in March.

Full Article and Source:
Illinois Supreme court rules against Drew Peterson

See also:
Custody Of Drew Peterson Kids

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

APS Agent with Felony Past

A Tulsa supervisor for the state agency charged with overseeing the welfare of vulnerable adults has a history of financial mismanagement including felony convictions for writing bogus checks, several bankruptcies and small claims filed against him for nonpayment.

Fedro J. Givens, a supervisor in Adult Protective Services for the Department of Human Services, said he should not be judged on his past and has learned from those mistakes.

Adult Protective Services is a division charged with overseeing the welfare of adults deemed unable to care for themselves. Workers investigate referrals of abuse, neglect and exploitation of elderly and disabled adults and may become temporary court-appointed guardians.

Concerns about Givens comes as a former Tulsa worker in that division faces two criminal trials and a civil lawsuit from allegations she bilked clients of their money.

Debra M. Roberts has been charged with taking nearly $4,500 from an 84-year-old man and $5,900 from a 74-year-old man for her own use while serving as their guardian.

Full Article and Source:
Supervisor at agency has felony past

See also:
DHS Worker Charged Again

DHS Worker Arrested

New Rules to Protect Elderly

People who market and sell financial products to Connecticut's senior citizens will face tighter rules starting July 1.

The General Assembly last week passed legislation barring people from touting themselves with phony certifications or professional designations claiming they have special expertise in products for the elderly.

AARP Connecticut says some seniors have been exploited by financial consultants, life insurance agents and others claiming to specialize in products for the elderly.

Full Article and Source:
New rules help protect the elderly

Tied Up and Held at Knife Point

SC - Richland County deputies are looking for a female suspect who they say tied up an elderly couple and held them at knife point early Sunday morning.

Deputies are looking for 30-year-old Jenine Obert-Pozzi, who is wanted for First Degree Burglary, Armed Robbery, Grand Larceny of a Motor Vehicle and Kidnapping.

Around 2:30 a.m., deputies responded to a home on Overbrook Drive, just off of Rosewood Drive, where an 81-year-old male and an 80-year-old female had been pushed to the ground tied up and held at knifepoint in their home by Obert-Pozzi, who is an acquaintance.

Authorities say the suspect has been to the victims' home several times in the past and was familiar enough with the victims to let her in their home.

Deputies say Obert-Pozzi tied the victims up as she began going through their personal belongings. Investigators are still trying to figure out what items were taken.

Sheriff Leon Lott says the victims were injured during the incident, but were not transported to the hospital.

Deputies say Obert-Pozzi left the scene in the victims' dark green 1996 Toyota Corolla with license plate number NG2028.

Obert-Pozzi is 5'2 and weighs 200 pounds.

If you have information know where Obert-Pozzi is, please contact CrimeStoppers, at 1-888-CRIME-SC, text a tip to "CRIMES" (274637) beginning with "TIPSC" or visit the CrimeStoppers website.

Elderly Couple Tied Up, Held at Knifepoint Inside Home

Monday, June 8, 2009

Battle of Artist Wills

Her personal collection included works by the masters – Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Pierre August Renoir among them. The valuable pieces combined are worth about $26 million, court records show.

In 2004, Provincetown artist Mary Kass willed the paintings and sculptures to the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

She also agreed to give $225,000 out of her $40 million estate to several local charities at the time of her death.

And after she died March 12, the trustees of that will sought to have her last wishes carried out.

But so did her niece and nephew – only they produced a will from 1992 that makes no mention of the museum or the charities.

In 2004, Kass established the trust, leaving Merrill Lynch Bank and a friend, Elizabeth Villari, control of her estate upon her passing, records show. Under that arrangement, just over $3 million would go to several individuals – including $1 million each to her niece, Catherine Mason of Washington, D.C., and her nephew, Thomas Berger of Virginia. Her Provincetown properties would be deeded to Villari and another friend, Mary Ellen Henry of Provincetown, according to the agreement.

But her niece and nephew claimed even before her death that Villari had maintained undue influence over Kass, which persuaded her to change her will from a prior version in which they received more money.

The dispute is now tied up in probate court, freezing the money and the artwork until a settlement is reached.

Full Article and Source:
Artist's death sparks battle of wills

Arc Workshop

The Arc of Schuyler County will host an informational workshop on special needs trusts and guardianship services on June 13 at its facility at 210 Twelfth St. in Watkins Glen.

Registration begins at 8:45 a.m., and the workshop will run from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Marcie Finlay, an attorney with Blumkin, Finlay and Bixler in Tompkins County, will lead the program “Overview of Wills, Estate Planning, Guardianship and Future Planning.”

Heidi Flatt, associate executive director of trust services at NYSARC Inc., will offer “Trust Planning and the NYSARC Trust.”

The workshop is geared towards parents and family members caring for people with special needs, but will also be useful for professionals who work with people with developmental disabilities or the elderly and to attorneys who assist families dealing with these issues, the release says.

Lunch will be provided. To reserve a seat, contact Lisa Crouch at (607) 535-6934 or by June 10.

For more information:

Full Article and Source:
Schuyler Arc to host guardianship, estate workshop

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Officials Disturbed by Lawsuit

The chairman of the Mahoning County Commissioners can sum up his displeasure with a mandamus lawsuit filed against the commissioners by Probate Judge Mark Belinky in one word: “Disturbing.”

Anthony T. Traficanti, chairman of the county commissioners: “I would like him to retract his mandamus and agree to sit down and talk to us.”

In his lawsuit in the 7th District Court of Appeals, Judge Belinky asked the appellate judges to compel the commissioners to provide the probate court with a $915,715 operating budget from the county’s general fund for 2009, per his previous order. The commissioners had allocated the probate court $694,833 from the general fund, which Judge Belinky said in his lawsuit is inadequate for the proper operation of his court.

Full Article and Source:
Probate Judge Belinky’s suit disturbs Mahoning officials

See also:
Judge Files Suit Over Budget

Elder Justice Act Editorial

Congressional Hearings going back 30 years have documented that elder abuse is a shameful national epidemic. In recent years, the problem has only gotten worse.

Three times now, the Elder Justice Act, which would adopt much-needed new measures to protect exploited seniors, has died in Congress.

Seniors can no longer afford to wait. It's time now for action.

Sen. Orrin Hatch and Blanche Lincoln have reintroduced their original bill once again. It currently awaits action in the Senate Finance Committee.

The Elder Justice Act is a smart, comprehensive plan for preventing and detecting elder abuse across the U.S.

First and foremost, it would make combating elder abuse a national priority. That would help to bring the problem, which has largely been a hidden epidemic, into the public spotlight.

The Elder Justice Act would do a number of things.

Most importantly, it would create a stream of dedicated funding through block grants to Adult Protective Services Agencies around the country. These agencies are on the front lines for detecting elder abuse and protecting exploited seniors.

Yet many local adult protective services agencies currently operate on such shoestring budgets their caseloads are off the charts. They're only able to intervene in the most extreme cases of abuse, leaving many at-risk seniors to suffer.

On the legal front, the bill also:

* provides for specialized training for law enforcement and prosecutors who handle elder abuse cases

* creates an Office of Elder Justice to help coordinate local and federal efforts to combat elder abuse

* creates an Elder Justice Research Center that would provide public education on preventing elder abuse

* helps protect residents of long-term care facilities by requiring that employees of nursing homes undergo background checks

Full Article and Source:
Editorial: Congress should pass Elder Justice Act

See also:
Elder Abuse Bill Reintroduced

Caretaker Convicted

Sheryl Harris was convicted of elder abuse, the first such case in the county courts.

Harris manipulated the woman she was supposed to be taking care of, getting into her bank accounts, taking money and opening credit card accounts.

The jury convicted Harris and gave her five years in prison and five more on probation.

Woman convicted of elder abuse

More information:
Elder abuse victim speaks out

Wolves in caregivers clothing