Samuel Drakulich earned a Bronze Star for drawing enemy fire away from a wounded soldier during World War II. He parachuted behind German lines to organize the resistance and went on to serve in the CIA.
But by his mid-80s, a stroke put the war hero in a wheelchair. Jeanne, his wife, had dementia. Their McLean home was in disarray and bills went unpaid.
A dispute between the couple’s children led the courts to decide that the Drakuliches needed a third-party caretaker. A judge appointed a law firm, which is common in Virginia when the elderly and incapacitated have no one else.
Now the Drakuliches and the law firm are fighting over tens of thousands of dollars in billings in a conflict that likely will be decided by the state Supreme Court.
It has raised questions among elder-care advocates and legislators about how a small number of paid guardians — both lawyers and non-lawyer professionals — are treating the aging and how states oversee the process.
In the McLean case, Needham, Mitnick and Pollack (NMP) took control of the Drakuliches’ lives and $700,000 nest egg, as it had done in six similar cases in Fairfax County. It charged wards up to $125 an hour — its normal professional rates — for personal services, such as renewing dog licenses, sorting boxes and preparing instructions on emptying a dryer’s lint trap, court records show.
NMP billed the Drakuliches $6,300 to prepare $1,800 worth of household items for auction, another ward $2,300 to sell a $4,000 car and a third person in their care $4,200 to recover $5,300 worth of investments, a court investigator found.
The Drakulich family calls the bills exorbitant; NMP says they are normal legal bills. The firm says it and other firms can’t afford to become guardians unless they are allowed to charge their regular rates.
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Guardianship Case in McLean Illustrates Lack of Regulation for Those Caring for the Elderly