Saturday, April 2, 2011

Judge Moves John Q. Hammons Hearing to Nursing Home

The legal dispute over the care of a 92-year-old businessman moved to the nursing home where he lives on Thursday. A probate judge held a hearing at The Manor at Elfindale, where John Q. Hammons lives, rather than the Greene County Judicial Courts Facility.

The hearing was for a lawsuit filed in early March by eight friends of Hammons. The friends say Hammons' guardian, Jacqueline Dowdy, won't let them visit or call Hammons, even though they believe he wants to see them and is well enough to do so. The lawsuit seeks to have Greene County Public Administrator David Yancey appointed to be Hammons' guardian.

Public administrators handle the affairs of people who can't do it themselves and have no one else to do it for him. Hammons and his wife, Juanita, have no children, and Juanita Hammons has long been in a nursing home herself.

After the hearing on Thursday, Probate Judge Michael Cordonnier recessed the Case Management Hearing until 8:30 a.m. on April 7.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Moves John Q. Hammons Guardianship Hearing to Nursing Home

See Also:
John Q. Hammons Guardianship Closed!

KY Gov Signs Two Bills to Protect Elderly

Gov. Steve Beshear held a ceremonial bill signing ceremony for two measures aimed at better protecting elderly and vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect or financial exploitation.

Lawmakers and advocates surrounded Beshear as he signed the adult protection bills that he praised as “a step forward in safeguarding our seniors.”

Beshear said he was disappointed lawmakers failed to pass what was a priority for many of the advocates — a bill to create a registry of people found to have abused or neglected adults, similar to the state’s a child abuse registry. That bill passed the House but died in the Senate.

He and the advocates said they will continue to press for such a law. Meanwhile, they said the bills Beshear signed will provide important protections for adults who are vulnerable because of age or disability.

“This is truly a good day for those of us who work in the field of elder abuse and guardianship,’’ said Becky Smith of GuardiaCare, a nonprofit Louisville agency that helps elderly or disabled adults manage their finances.

House Bill 52, sponsored by Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, bars people convicted of abusing or neglecting vulnerable adults from managing the affairs of their victims by acting as a guardian or power of attorney. It also prohibits them from inheriting from their victims or serving as executor of their estates.

Full Article and Source:
Governor Steve Beshear Signs 2 Bills to Protect Elderly

Family Not Notified of Man's Death for 11 Days

The poor handling of William Mullins's death suggests a health-care system under siege.

William Mullins didn't have an easy life.

He was born 60 years ago with cerebral palsy and some moderate mental challenges, a somewhat lower-than-normal IQ.

As he grew older and his behaviour became more erratic, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Later still, he developed diabetes and heart problems.

For a time, to his family's despair, he lived on the streets, unwilling or unable to take care of himself.

At times, though, he was able to hold a job as a parking lot attendant.

Although he wasn't yet a senior citizen, he spent his last years in the comfort of an Edmonton care centre, where people remember him fondly as a friendly man who liked music and fresh air, who always preferred to sleep with his windows open, who liked to greet people he knew with a big "Hello." His sisters say his favourite song was Don't Worry, Be Happy.

Yet this isn't a story about the difficult circumstances of Bill Mullins' life -but about the indignity of his death.

On Feb. 11, staff at the nursing home where Mullins lived were concerned enough about his failing health that they called an ambulance.

Mullins was taken to the University of Alberta Hospital and admitted to the intensive care unit. He died the next day.

Nobody from the hospital notified the nursing home. Nobody notified the Office of the Public Guardian or the Public Trustee, who together had control of Mullins's personal and legal affairs. And nobody notified Mullins's two sisters, his next of kin, neither of whom live in Edmonton. For 11 days, his body lay unclaimed in the hospital morgue -lost, like some missing piece of luggage, in a morass of medical bureaucracy.

By the time his sister Heather was finally told what had happened, by the time she arrived in Edmonton to identify her brother's body, his corpse had begun to decompose.

It's a nightmare no family should have to contemplate.

What went wrong? How did poor Bill Mullins get so lost in the system?

The vulnerable man, with his complex medical and psychiatric disabilities, was, legally speaking, a dependent adult, an official ward of the province's Office of the Public Guardian. He'd been in and out of hospital often; even if he couldn't communicate clearly by the time the ambulance got him to hospital, his legal status and contact information for the guardian's office should have been part of his medical file. When he died, the appropriate protocol would have been for the hospital to notify the guardian's office, and for the public guardian, in turn, to notify the next of kin.

Full Article and Source:
A Man Died, and for 11 Days, His Family Wasn't Notified

Friday, April 1, 2011

'So, What Have You Learned as a Legal Intern?'


72-Year-Old Man Takes Guardianship Case to Jury

The Vancouver (WA) Columbian reports: “As his attorney tells it, Richard Morse’s trial that starts today is about the balance between government and individual freedom. The 72-year-old man’s nursing home wants to become his legal guardian and take control of his $600,000 estate. Morse believes he’s perfectly capable of taking care of himself.

At issue is whether Morse is incapacitated and doesn’t have the ability to make decisions about his money and his care. Vancouver Health and Rehabilitation Center filed the petition for guardianship in May after Morse was staying there following hospitalization for infected leg wounds."

Full Article and Source:
Washington Man, 72, Takes Guardianship Case to Jury

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Protecting Iowa's Senior Citizens

During this video, Senator Dennis Black speaks in depth of the Bob Queener case:

YouTube: Protecting Iowa's Senior Citizens

See Also:
Update on Bob Queener Case

Caregivers and Guardian Arrested

Three people who had been caring for a disabled Utah woman who was found dead are accused of beating her, putting a pepper seed in her eye, and binding her wrists and ankles with restraints so she couldn't remove it.

Police found 22-year-old Christina Harms dead Friday in her home in the town of Kearns, about 24 kilometres south of Salt Lake City.

Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal says investigators found Harms' body covered in bruises and marks on her wrists and ankles consistent with the use of restraints.

An autopsy to determine the cause of death is pending, but police believe the abuse was a key factor.

Hoyal says Harms' live-in caregivers and her legal guardian were arrested and booked into the Salt Lake County jail on Sunday. No bail has been set.

Utah Caregivers, Guardian Arrested After Death of 22-Year-Old Disabled Woman

Abuse Caught on Camera

A family is planning to sue a New Jersey nursing home. They say an elderly family member died in January following physical abuse by a nursing aide.

87-year-old Mondesta Alvarado died at the Harborage Nursing Home in North Bergen, N.J. Alvarado was paralyzed and terminally ill when she was allegedly abused.

Former aide Julia Galvan is accused of repeatedly striking Alvarado. The abuse was captured on a video camera the family installed in her room after they suspected mistreatment. Galvan is also accused of removing her oxygen mask.

Criminal charges are pending against Galvan.

Source and Video:
Abuse of 87-Year-Old Caught on Camera

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Brain Damaged Mom Can See Her Triplets

Paraplegic mother Abbie Dorn has been in the middle of a visitation battle with ex-husband Dan Dorn after he has refused to let her see their triplets after brain damage sustained during delivery of the triplets. Terry McCarthy reports with more and Russ Mitchell spoke with Legal Analyst Lisa Bloom and Psychologist Dr. Jennifer Hartstein to discuss the legal perspective and psychological effects that may be involved with the mother and children thereafter.

Brain Damaged Mom Can See Her Triplets,Judge Rules

See Also:
Abbie Dorn Court Battle Set for May 13

80-Year-Old New Jersey Lawyer Charged With Theft

The Passaic County Prosecutor has charged 80-year-old Clifton lawyer Kenneth Brookman of North Caldwell with three counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of property.

Prosecutor Camelia Valdes announced the arrest of the 1135 Clifton Ave., lawyer on Tuesday. According to the Prosecutor's office, Brookman's license to practice law, obtained in 1956, was suspended July 2010.

The complaints against Brookman, according to the Prosecutor's office, allege Brookman stole about $100,000 from three clients during 2008 to 2010.

In the first matter, Brookman failed to disburse $74,539 to the beneficiary of an estate, according to the Prosecutor's office. In the second matter, Brookman failed to pay over a $17,000 deposit being escrowed on a real estate transaction and in the third case, Brookman again failed to distribute $5,069 to the beneficiaries of an estate, according to the Prosecutor.

During the period of the thefts, Brookman illegally transferred clients' funds out of his Attorney Trust Account to his personal bank account or otherwise converted the entrusted funds to his personal use, a release by the prosecutor's office reads.

Theft by Failure to make Required Disposition of Property (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-9) is a third degree offense punishable by up to five years in state prison.

Full Article and Source:
Clifton Lawyer, 80, Charged With Theft

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Arizona Legislative Tug of War

SB 1499 should be killed, and HB2424 passed without further delay, with one amendment: quarterly reports in the first year, semiannual in the second, and annually in the third and subsequent years of a guardianship or conservatorship, because fiduciary fees are out of control. All "Interested persons" should receive copies, without having to apply for same, and "interested persons" will do a better monitoring job than the courts would or could.

One need look no further than the Marie Long case and the outrageous and obscene fee billings by the fiduciaries to know that there must be a cap on attorney fees in the probate courts.

If family law was the "bread and butter" of the Bar, then guardianship and conservatorship may be the new "caviar." The purpose of HB2424 is to put a cap on fees, and the purpose of SB1499 is to create a total management plan in favor of continued asset bleeding.

The word "vexatious" in SB 1499 is a very red flag. It tells us that that section of the Bill on fees is drafted solely to harass or subdue an adversary - the family -to shut them out of court by means of financial harassment and punishment.

Never in our experience do we hear of probate lawyers being tagged as "vexatious" litigants. The Senate version of a probate remedy sounds like a euthanasia Bill for families! It is a total put-down to any attempt by the family to fight unlawful and abusive guardianships and conservatorships.

The dirty secrets are all out - there is no reform that can help protect the greedy fiduciaries any longer. The probate courts must clean up their act - not by statutory tricks such as in 1499, but by imposing fee caps on the "caviar-consuming" lawyers, by applying the existing statutes properly,and protecting the civil liberties and human rights of the wards and their families. Retaliation by a guardian in prohibiting visitation must be met with quickly and severely.

If Anyone's Listening, Here's a Way to Cut Through the Competing Probate Noise

For anyone not already tone deaf with a case of earsplitting self-interest, a court-appointed attorney in Maricopa County, Arizona’s Probate Court offers his own cogent solution to what’s become a contest of the dueling probate reformers at the state capitol. The attorney’s name is Jon D. Kitchel and he’s in private practice.

Currently, two bills, one from the state senate and the other from the state house, are vying to conjure up ‘the better prescription’ to cure what’s been ailing the local probate court.

Senate Bill 1499 is supported by the courts, probate lawyers, the fiduciaries and other interested stakeholders. The other is House Bill 2424, which is promoted by activists and family members of wards who’ve run up against the buzz saw and are still licking wounds from the experience.

Jon Kitchel’s “Open Letter” is as follows:

“.....The Legislature is currently considering alternatives that might improve the system. Here are three substantive changes the Legislature could make to improve our system:

First, require fiduciaries to provide regular financial reports to wards or their counsel if they choose to receive them. Current statutes require a conservator to file an annual accounting listing income and expenses a year after the money is gone. It’s not possible for anyone to monitor an estate without regular financial reports.

“Second, reduce (or eliminate) the barrier to fiduciary substitution. Sometimes a relationship between a fiduciary and ward is unproductive. It may be too expensive or it may simply be a personality conflict. Under our current system, only the court may determine if that relationship should be ended. That determination is made after expensive litigation in which both sides of the conflict are paid from the ward’s estate.

A better system would allow a ward (as often as once a year) to ask the court to appoint a successor fiduciary for any reason. Fiduciaries, like anyone else, should have to compete for business based on price and performance. If another qualified fiduciary is available and willing to serve (consistent with the ward’s best interests) the court should be required to appoint a successor.....

Third, if a ward is paying the bill, the person being paid should have a primary duty to the ward. That includes both the fiduciary and the lawyer hired by the fiduciary with the ward’s money. A fiduciary and his attorney should not be keeping secrets from the ward while charging the ward for doing so....

...Arizona’s legislature could take a large step forward to real probate reform by stepping on a few bureaucratic toes and granting Arizona’s wards three basic rights: the right to receive regular financial reports, the right to elect substitution of a fiduciary for any reason, and the right to expect all professionals paid by the ward to put the ward’s interests first.”

If Anyone's Listening, Here's the Way to Cut Through the Competing Probate Noise at the AZ Legislature

A Visual Guide to Probate "Process"

For those looking for a visual aid to explain the probate court process, here’s a chart produced as part of the Republic’s investigative series.

CRISISA descent into Alzheimer’s dementia. A debilitating stroke. Even an addiction.

The outcome: You are rendered temporarily or permanently incapacitated, unable to provide for your own health and personal care or manage your finances. If there is no one willing or able to care for you, Maricopa County Probate Court may step in.

Family or friends: Reliable family members or friends may intervene to oversee your care and finances, honoring any power-of-attorney or trust documents you had prepared. However, if a feud among family members later erupts over your care or money, Maricopa County Probate Court may step in.

Full Article and Source:
Courthouse Steps

SB1499 Will Bring Order To Probate Court Chaos

The stories are heartbreaking and upsetting. Arizona seniors losing most or all of their life's savings because of the actions of unscrupulous individuals appointed to manage their finances. The time has come to reform Probate Courts in our state.

Senate Bill 1499 is a comprehensive package that gives "truth in probate" to Arizona's families. Probate law is complicated, and we have worked hard to make sure we have the right plan to help families making decisions at a very difficult stage.

Currently, the people most vulnerable don't have the power to bring change. SB 1499 shifts the balance of power back to those navigating the process.

Probate victims are demanding that we stop the runaway costs associated with the current process. In response, SB 1499 demands that a proposed guardian must submit a good-faith estimate of all costs up front to avoid any sticker shock for families. That is the time that families must know what the expenses will be, so they are able to make an informed decision.

Shortly after being appointed, the conservator/guardian is required to have a detailed budget in place. If the conservator goes over budget, it won't see the money unless there is a clear, defensible explanation. SB 1499 also addresses past problems by limiting when payments to fiduciaries and attorneys may start, and forcing the professionals to submit their bills in a timely manner.

We also make sure the ward is protected. Current law makes it too difficult to remove fiduciaries that don't get along with their clients. Because of this, the fiduciaries often fight in the courts to keep their jobs. This rapidly drives up costs for the wards, who are responsible for all litigation costs.

Full Article and Source:
SB1499 Will Bring Order to Probate Court Chaos

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mickey Rooney's Conservatorship is Permanent

Mickey Rooney's legal and financial affairs will remain under the permanent control of his lawyer after a judge in Los Angeles ruled his conservatorship should stay in place indefinitely.

The veteran actor's attorney Michael Augustine was appointed temporary conservator in February (11) after the Oscar-winner filed court papers claiming his step-son Christopher Aber had been trying to convince him to sign over control of his assets.

The 90 year old alleged he feared for his safety and in a sworn declaration to the court, Augustine claimed he had found $400,000 missing from one of the star's bank accounts. A judge granted his request for a restraining order against Aber and his wife.

The case went back to court on 3/25 and a judge made the conservatorship permanent. The restraining order against the Abers was not extended, but the couple has reportedly agreed to continue staying away from Rooney.

Full Article and Source:
Mickey Rooney's Conservatorship Made Permanent

See Also:
Mickey Rooney the Champion!

Mickey Rooney Reaches Settlement With One of his Stepsons

A settlement was reached between Mickey Rooney and one of his stepsons, who the 90-year-old actor had accused of trying to gain control of his assets, an attorney for the movie icon said after a court conservatorship hearing [3/25/11].

Lawyer Bruce S. Ross said the resolution means a scheduled April 5 hearing on a possible extension of the current stay-away order against Christopher Thomas Aber and his wife, Christina, will not be held.

He said both Abers have agreed to the provisions of the current order without having to have further enforcement by a judge.

The restraining order directed Aber and his wife -- who both denied any wrongdoing -- to stay at least 100 yards from Rooney and his home.

Also protected under the order were another Rooney stepson, 48-year-old Mark Aber Rooney, and the latter's 58-year-old wife, Charlene. Both have lived with the actor since April 2009.

Christopher Aber, 52, regularly went to Rooney's home unannounced and the actor hid in his room to avoid him, according to court papers submitted by the actor's lawyers in support of the restraining order.

Full Article and Source:
Mickey Rooney Reaches Settlement With One of his Stepsons

Mickey Rooney Seeks Career Revival Under New Conservatorship

Mickey Rooney must revive his show business career soon or he will die "in very short order," the lawyer appointed to oversee the 90-year-old actor's affairs told CNN Friday.

"He's available, he's marketable and we're going to get him working," said Michael Augustine.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Reva Goetz cleared the way for a Rooney resurgence Friday by appointing Augustine as permanent conservator, a move Rooney said he needed to protect him from his stepson and stepdaughter.

Full Article and Source:
Mickey Rooney Seeks Career Revival Under New Conservatorship

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What the Numbers Don't Tell Us

The right to kill yourself became the law of the land in Washington state in 2008. In year two since enactment of the Death With Dignity Act (DWDA), which allows adult residents of the state whom doctors have diagnosed with a terminal illness to take their own lives, a total of 87 people were prescribed “lethal doses” of medication by their physician (“death by doctor” once removed being the only legal method of suicide thus far) and a total a 72 actually died, either by the drugs or by some other means.

What the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) was able to report in its 2010 summary of the law’s impact is that only 51 of the 87 actually succumbed to the deadly drugs they supposedly asked for, while 15 others died without having taken the drugs. For the six others confirmed dead, the state isn’t quite sure whether the drugs killed them or something else.

While that lack of certainty is troubling enough, there are still 15 other individuals who were prescribed lethal medication for which the state Department of Health (DOH) has not accounted at all, and that has one Washington state life group raising some sobering issues.

Eileen Geller of True Compassion Advocates, a life ethics organization that monitors the issue of assisted suicide in Washington — as well as Oregon, the only other state that has legalized the practice — said that the group is deeply disturbed that Washington health officials can’t locate the documentation or facts on what happened to the individuals who were prescribed lethal doses of medication so they could kill themselves — but apparently have since disappeared off the state’s radar.

She also related the story of a seriously ill paralyzed woman who was discharged prematurely from a Seattle-area hospital and worried about being a burden to her family. With no financial resources and feeling she had no other choice, the women “requested doctor prescribed death via the DWDA,” said Geller.

Or how about the nephew who worried that his uncle’s untreated depression and lack of financial resources led him to choose doctor-prescribed suicide, or another depressed gentleman with no insurance who — with the not-so-gentle nudging of family members — requested the “death with dignity” option?

Full Article and Source:
Legalized Suicide: What the Numbers Don't Tell Us

Caretaker Charged with Theft

A Deltona woman hired from a Port Orange business by a 95-year-old woman for companionship stole money from her to help a homeless daughter in California, DeLand police said.

Ella Barker, 58, was arrested Monday and charged with exploitation of an elderly person. She left the Volusia County Branch Jail later in the day after posting $1,000 bail.

According to police documents, a sobbing Barker told a DeLand detective she stole checks from the woman because Barker was desperate after learning her daughter was pregnant and homeless in California. She cashed 17 checks amounting to $3,430, police said.

Full Article and Source:
Deltona Caretaker Charged With Exploitation of Elderly

Woman Sentenced for Swindling Her Mother

Marsha Aspelund Truskolaski tearfully apologized Wednesday as she was sentenced for swindling more than $200,000 from her ailing 77-year-old mother.

"I'm very, very sorry," she told Ramsey County District Judge Joanne Smith. "I know what I did was wrong. I can't say that enough.

Truskolaski was given a stay of imposition sentence, meaning that if she successfully completes 10 years of probation, the charges will be reduced to misdemeanors. She was ordered to serve 45 days in the workhouse, on work release or home confinement. She also was ordered to pay $18,000 in restitution and possibly more.

Smith also lifted an order that had prohibited Truskolaski and her children from seeing her mother.

Truskolaski was accused of abusing her power of attorney over her mother's financial affairs between 2004 and 2008 to pay for vacations, jewelry, car loans, private school tuition for her children and expensive home improvements, including an in-ground swimming pool. Her mother was left virtually destitute and now gets government assistance.

Full Article and Source:
North St. Paul Woman Sentenced for Swindling Mom