Saturday, November 13, 2010

Adult Children of Divorced Parents Want Prenups

It used to be that parents were the ones counseling kids to have pre-nups and not be silly romantics. But these days -with 500,000 new marriages a year between couples over the age of 65 - it's more likely that it's the adult kids of divorce who are worrying about financial futures and now asking, insisting or even begging their parents to get pre-nups.

Take for example the case of Diana Mercer, the author of "Making Divorce Work," who's mediating her own family drama now. Her 82-year-old father is remarrying and she wants to protect an inheritance.

"We're going ballistic right now because most of his estate is because of my mother's money," she says. "We've bought the argument that he wants to take care of the wife who will take care of him in Indianapolis since we're in California. But I do have a problem with her son, who's a nogoodnik ending up with money and the house that should have been mine and my brother's."

Mercer is not alone in raising red flags about a parent's pending marriage.

Full Article and Source:
Adult Kids of Divorce Are Demanding That Their Elderly Parents Stop Acting Like Teenagers and Get Prenups

The 101 Biggest Estate Planning Mistakes

101 Biggest Estate Planning Mistakes offers an informative and entertaining look at what not to do when setting up an estate plan. The author, an estate planner for some of today’s most famous celebrities, explains how to avoid common pitfalls and make decisions that will allow you to execute a fool-proof estate plan that protects you and your family.

The 101 Biggest Estate Planning Mistakes

Friday, November 12, 2010

OH: Family Files Suit Against Guardian

A question of negligence is at the center of a civil suit filed against Attorney Tresa Gossett in the Brown County Court of Common Pleas.

Gossett was appointed guardianship of an 83-year-old woman, Nannie McIntosh, in the fall of 2006, despite family resistance. Months after McIntosh's death, the family filed a lawsuit against Gossett claiming a "lack of ordinary care."

The claim was filed with a jury demand. Gossett responded with a counterclaim that the family was abusing a judicial process.

Monday [11/8], a jury of four women and four men were selected for a three-day trial, at the end of which they will be asked to decide if either the claim or counterclaim have merit. A fifth woman was also selected as an alternate juror.

The civil suit was filed by Isabella Bennington, one of three daughters of McIntosh. Bennington is administrator of McIntosh's estate.

Full Article and Source:
Family Files Suit Against Guardian

KY: New Legislation to Prevent Elder Abusers From Benefiting From Victims' Death

Seeking to fill what she called “a hole” in Kentucky law, state Rep. Joni Jenkins announced that she has filed legislation aimed at preventing people who abuse or neglect vulnerable or elderly adults from benefiting from their deaths.

Too often, Jenkins said at a Louisville news conference, an adult child or other relative may be convicted of mistreating an elderly adult but still inherits the estate when that person dies.

“Every year, the judicial, social and law enforcement communities across Kentucky work together to stop these terrible acts of adult abuse and neglect, then have to stand by and watch as these convicted abusers reap financial gain from those they have injured,” Jenkins, D-Shively, said.

Kentucky law already bars killers from receiving an inheritance from their victims. Jenkins’ bill would expand that to include people convicted of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation.

Full Article and Source:
Bill to Protect Elderly, Vulnerable From Abuse Filed

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Feds Probe California Nursing Homes for Abuse

The U.S. Department of Justice is looking into complaints of lax care at Northern California nursing homes, and threatening civil or criminal charges against serious violators.

The federal investigators will look at inappropriate use of psychiatric medications and poor care that results in injury or illness, according to a statement about the probe. Investigators are also looking at nursing homes that discharge sick patients or refuse admission to patients returning from a hospital.

The investigation was, at least in part, spurred by a provision of the federal health reform law signed by President Barack Obama in March. That law includes the Elder Justice Act, which calls for coordination between the U.S. attorney general’s office and other government agencies to prevent elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Full Article and Source:
Feds Probe Nursing Home Abuse


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Psychologist - Judge Needs Therapy But Could Go Back to Work

Orange-Osceola Circuit Judge N. James Turner is not seriously mentally ill, but he's a borderline narcissist who wants to be in control and is lousy at reading social signals from other people, something consistent with someone who "does not get it" when women in his office want him to leave them alone.

That's the conclusion of an Altamonte Springs psychologist who did a formal mental-health evaluation of Turner, 64, earlier this year.

The evaluation is one piece of evidence being evaluated by members of a state panel that must recommend what to do with Turner, strip him of his job or allow him to stay on the bench with some form of discipline.

Turner went on trial in Orlando last week before a six-member tribunal of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the state agency that polices judges.

It has not yet made public its findings. That is likely weeks away, but it heard four days of testimony about Turner, seven hours of it from Turner.

He admitted violating the state's judicial code several times. He even admitted to things with which he was not formally charged. That includes filing false or incomplete annual reports of his net worth and failing to report to the Internal Revenue Service a $42,000 gift from his mother.

He also admitted breaking other rules, for example serving as his mother's attorney while he was a judge and sending out an email to 15,000 people, asking for campaign donations. Judicial candidates are barred from personally soliciting campaign gifts.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Turner's Psychological Evaluation: He's Socially Inept, Self-Centered

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Judge in Disney Case Orders Arrest of Lawyer at Hearing

A Maricopa Superior Court judge ordered the arrest of one lawyer and promised to impose sanctions on others during a hearing on a case involving Walt Disney's grandchildren.

Judge Gary Donahoe told sheriff's deputies to put Tempe lawyer Joel Sannes in handcuffs and threatened to jail him indefinitely last week after he refused to answer questions about a subpoena issued to a court-appointed physician.

The subpoena asked the doctor to produce records and her findings for every case she has handled for the court over the past five years.

Donahoe had ordered Sannes, three of his clients and any other lawyer involved in the subpoena to appear in court Thursday, adding that failure to show up would result in “a warrant for the arrest of counsel and their clients.”

In his order, Donahoe described the subpoena as “overly broad, oppressive and done for the purposes of harassment.” He also said it resulted in the doctor's withdrawal from the case, which he reluctantly accepted.

The doctor had been appointed to assess the mental state of Bradford Lund, 40, one of the grandchildren of entertainment legend Walt Disney. Lund, who is developmentally disabled and beneficiary of a trust worth hundreds of millions of dollars, is at the center of a vicious family feud.

Relatives, including his twin sister Michelle, have petitioned the court to appoint an independent guardian for Brad, saying they believe he is being financially exploited by his father, his stepmother and her children.

But his father, Valley real estate developer Bill Lund, denies those claims. He and his wife, Sherry, have vowed to fight the petition, which they say is motivated by greed. They say the court has wrongly intruded into their lives and Brad's.

Full Article and Source:
Judge In Disney Case Orders Arrest of Lawyer at Hearing

See Also:
Grandchildren of Walt Disney, Father, Battle for Control

State Bar of WI: Lack of Diligence

An attorney agreed to serve as special administrator for an estate after two of the decedent’s adult children challenged the will. After settlement of the will contest, the court appointed the attorney to serve as personal representative of the estate, trustee of a testamentary trust for the benefit of two minor children of the decedent, and guardian of the two minors’ estates.

As personal representative, the attorney assumed responsibility for filing federal and state income tax returns for the estate. The federal tax return was due on April 15, 2003, but the attorney did not mail the return until April 12, 2004. The late filing caused the estate to incur penalties and interest of $10,217.43. The attorney acknowledged his responsibility for the late filing and paid the penalties and interest from his law firm account.

After filing the initial estate tax return, the attorney learned of potential tax savings that could be achieved by filing an amended federal tax return on behalf of the estate. Accordingly, the attorney prepared amended federal and state tax returns, but he once again missed the filing deadline. Although it was disputed whether the amended return and the proposed amended deductions would have been accepted by the IRS, it was apparent that the attorney miscarried his legal objective.

A key asset in the estate administered by the attorney was the decedent’s home. The decedent’s father, who was the original guardian of the person for the two minor children, had lived at the home and paid the homeowner’s insurance premiums. After the guardian resigned and moved to another state, the attorney assumed responsibility for paying these premiums. However, in 2005 the attorney misplaced the insurance premium invoice and the policy lapsed. Although the attorney immediately arranged for reinstatement of the insurance policy, and no damage claim necessitated the need for the policy, the attorney once again failed to fulfill an assumed obligation.

By failing to timely file federal estate tax returns and amended tax returns for the estate and failing to coordinate the timely payment of insurance premiums on a key estate asset, the attorney violated SCR 20:1.3, which states, “A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.”

The attorney had no prior discipline.

Wisconsin Lawyer, November 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Violated Trust: Exposing a Texas Scam Perpetrated on Veterans

When Shirley German couldn't get her son's guardian — an attorney handpicked by the Department of Veterans Affairs — to fork over $250 for Thanksgiving dinner for the disabled U.S. Marine and his family, she sensed something askew.

Her son, after all, had more than $200,000 in veteran's benefits saved in accounts the guardian controlled.

That man, Joe B. Phillips, a 71-year-old Houston lawyer and former VA employee, now stands accused of stealing more than $2 million from at least 28 Texas veterans and hiding those thefts with faked bank statements, padded expenses and even imaginary accounts verified with forged signatures, according to dozens of civil suits and a 2010 federal court indictment.

His 70-year-old wife and legal assistant, Dorothy Phillips, faces identical charges.

The fraud appears to be the largest ever detected in the VA's enormous guardianship program.

Individual disabled vets lost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to more than $250,000.

"My son paid a price and the rest of the disabled veterans did, too — and I'm furious they have to go through something like this," German said.

Collectively, the VA's guardianship program manages cumulative estates exceeding $3 billion and oversees benefit payments for about 108,000 veterans and other beneficiaries — such as widows and children — who, because of "injury, disease, or the infirmities of age" cannot manage their own financial affairs, according to recent congressional testimony.

Only three cases of fraud exceeding $1 million have been detected in the program's history: in California, Texas and Minnesota, according to information VA officials provided to Congress in April. They refused to provide details for this story.

In answers to lawsuits, Phillips has argued that the VA — and U.S. taxpayers — should pick up the tab for the debacle since under various laws federal officials are required to audit, review and approve all bills submitted by VA-approved guardians.

The theft went undetected for years despite required reviews by VA officials and audits by Harris County probate courts, which oversaw many of the guardianship cases.

Phillips has generally denied he committed theft or fraud. His trial on federal charges is set for April.

Full Article and Source:
Violated Trust: Exposing a Texas Scam

FL: Medicare Money Paid for Posh Life

Lawrence Duran and Marianella Valera loved spending taxpayers' money.

So much so, that the $84 million Medicare paid their Miami-based chain of mental health clinics for bogus therapy is practically gone, authorities say.

"As of right now, we can only locate $150,000'' in the couple's bank accounts, Justice Department attorney Jennifer Saulino said in Miami federal court Thursday.

So, where did all the money go?

It was spent on hefty salaries, foreign cars, fancy jewelry, international travel, a bayfront condo, even tuition for Duran's children at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School and Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory, court records show.

Prosecutors said the defendants, charged with bilking the taxpayer-funded Medicare program, have 'dissipated" $77 million in government payments.

Full Article and Source:
Medicare Money Paid for Posh Life

Wooden Will

When attorney Larry Shafer walked into Probate Court at the Licking County Courthouse recently, he saw a first in his 30 years of practicing law: He was confronted with a will written on a piece of wood.

The last will and testament was written by Marilyn S. Rhodeback, of Johnstown, in 1996.

Rhodeback was living in Florida at the time, and her husband recently had died.

Her daughter, Debra McHugh-Clark, also of Johnstown, said her father had died without a will and Rhodeback knew she had to get her own affairs in order.

The closest thing she could grab was a piece of shelving, about 14 inches by 14 inches, that was left over from a shelf recently built for a microwave.

During the intervening the years, Rhodeback made changes to the document, dated it and had her sisters sign the final version earlier this year. Rhodeback, 73, died in her Johnstown home April 7.

But about 10 days before that, while she was in the hospital, Rhodeback called McHugh-Clark and asked her to bring the will to the hospital.

Obeying her instructions, McHugh-Clark went to the house, thinking her mother was talking about a dry erase board. She couldn't find what she was looking for and had to call her mother.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think that an actual piece of wood was what she was talking about," McHugh-Clark said.

Full Article and Source:
A Wooden Will: Johnstown Woman's Last Wishes Recorded in Unusual Form

Monday, November 8, 2010

Former Doctor Sentenced to 5 Years Probation for Nearly $750,000 Theft

A former podiatrist who admitted to defrauding the health care system will not go to prison.

Michael Akyuz of Greece was sentenced to five years probation despite stealing almost three-quarters of a million dollars.

U.S District Court Judge Charles Syragusa called it a unique, exceptional family circumstance that led him to impose a lesser sentence today.

The recommended sentence for his crimes was 41 to 51 months in prison, but 44-year-old Akyuz will not have to spend a day behind bars.

Akyuz admitted to health care fraud and mail fraud while he was a podiatrist. Over the course of five years, the former foot doctor tended to elderly patients in nursing homes and retirement communities. While he billed Medicare for complex expensive procedures, in reality, he did little more than clip their toe-nails.

The total cost to tax-payers was almost three-quarters of a million dollars.

Akyuz said he took the money to take care of his family's health care costs. He has four children with varying degrees of autism.

Akyuz will also have to make restitution.

Full Article and Source:
I Team 10 Update: Former Foot Doctor Avoids Prison

NJ: Judge Faces Conduct Charge

Municipal Judge Robert A. Solomon was charged with violating several codes of judicial misconduct for his actions with respect to a speeding ticket for his daughter's former speech teacher, according to a formal complaint filed by the Supreme Court of New Jersey's Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct.

Solomon has been charged with violating five codes of judicial misconduct and a court rule, including failing to recuse himself from the case, which could lead to discipline by the Supreme Court.

"I don't have a comment at this point," Norwood Mayor James Barsa said of the complaint. "All I know is there is a complaint and it is being investigated. We will know more as time goes on."

Full Article and Source:
Judge Faces Conduct Charge

Indiana Judge Faces Drunken Driving Charge in North Carolina

A Hamilton County judge who is presiding over two high-profile cases says he was arrested on a drunken-driving charge while vacationing in North Carolina.

Hamilton Superior Court Judge William Hughes said in a news release that he was charged with driving while impaired and driving left of center last week in Currituck County.

The 55-year-old Hughes says he reported his arrest to the state Judicial Qualifications Committee for review.

Full Article and Source:
Indiana Judge Faces Drunken Driving Charge in North Carolina

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Court of Appeals: Alzheimer's Patient May Sue for Divorce

The Fourth District Court of Appeal revived a divorce petition by an elderly Alzheimer’s patient adjudged to be incompetent.

Div. One explained that the trial court had erred in dismissing the petition sua sponte without providing the parties with adequate notice and without first determining whether Evelyn Straczynski was capable expressing an intent to obtain a dissolution of her marriage on account of irreconcilable differences.

Straczynski began divorce proceedings in August 2005, but her husband, Charles Straczynski, alleged in his response that she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and was “not truly aware of what she is doing at this time.”

Evelyn Straczynski was placed in an assisted living program that November, but when San Diego Superior Court Judge David B. Oberholtzer interviewed her, he found she had “sufficient capacity to determine she wanted a divorce.”

Over the course of the next two years, Oberholtzer ruled on a number of motions, finding, among other things, that a 1986 prenuptial agreement was enforceable and that Straczynski’s husband was obligated to pay her half of the proceeds of the sale from the family home plus an additional $265,000. Oberholtzer also ordered the husband to pay all expenses associated with Straczynski’s care and medications.

Proceeding concurrently with this dissolution action was a conservatorship case in the probate court regarding Straczynski. The probate court found Straczynski was not competent to be in an attorney-client relationship and appointed a guardian ad litem and conservator for her estate. The probate judge also specified that the conservator “shall have standing to litigate the Family Court matters on behalf of the conservatee.”

Full Article and Source:
Alzheimer's Patient May Sue for Divorce, Court of Appeals Say

Money Woes Can be Early Clue to Alzheimer's

Renee Packel used to have a typical suburban life. Her husband, Arthur, was a lawyer and also sold insurance. They lived in a town house just outside Philadelphia, and Mrs. Packel took care of their home and family.

As Arthur Packel’s dementia grew worse, he forgot how to handle money, and his wife, Renee, could not find where it all went.

One day, it all came crashing down. The homeowners’ association called asking for their fees. To Mrs. Packel’s surprise, her husband had simply stopped paying them. Then she learned he had stopped writing checks to his creditors, too.

It turned out that Mr. Packel was developing Alzheimer’s disease and had forgotten how to handle money. When she tried to pay their bills, Mrs. Packel, who enlisted the help of a forensic accountant, could not find most of the couple’s money.

“It just disappeared,” she said.

What happened to the Packels is all too common, Alzheimer’s experts say. New research shows that one of the first signs of impending dementia is an inability to understand money and credit, contracts and agreements.

Full Article and Source:
Money Woes Can Be Early Clue to Alzheimer’s