Saturday, November 1, 2014

Probate Court names 3 to oversee guardianships

Franklin County Probate Judge Robert G. Montgomery
The Franklin County Probate Court has named three people to oversee guardianships, making Franklin County the first in the state with such a program.

Probate Judge Robert G. Montgomery said in an email that he will work closely with the group to make sure that the county’s most-vulnerable residents are not exploited, abused or neglected by the people entrusted with their care.

He is referring to the thousands of county residents deemed by the court unable to care for themselves and who have court-appointed guardians.

A yearlong Dispatch investigation revealed that the patchwork system of rules for guardianship in Ohio is ripe for abuse, and that a lack of oversight has allowed some attorneys and family members to steal the dignity, money and freedom of those they promised to protect.

Montgomery, who has long known there were problems with the guardianship system in Ohio, set out more than a year ago to create the Franklin County Guardianship Service Board. The nonprofit board will be managed by three members appointed by him and by the board members of the county’s Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board and Board of Developmental Disabilities.

He announced local lawyer Larry H. James as his appointee to the board.

The ADAMH board appointed Jane Higgins Marx, another Columbus lawyer with a long history of work in probate and elder law.

The developmental disabilities board named William W. Wilkins as its appointee. Wilkins is a health-care consultant with a long history in state government.

In announcing the board’s charter members yesterday, Montgomery said that they will ensure the safety of county residents.

“I believe that this new board will elevate the level of service delivery to those citizens unable to protect themselves,” he said.

The board members will now hire an executive director to serve as guardian for the county’s hardest-to-serve residents, typically those with a mental illness who don’t live in a nursing home or other group setting.

The new agency is expected to hire social workers to serve the most-difficult people, while Montgomery’s vision is to deploy volunteers and interns to work with others and visit them to check on their welfare.

To create the board, Montgomery had to seek changes to Ohio law to allow social-services agencies and charities to donate to a fund to start and operate the agency.

To continue reading click here.

Full Article & Source:
Probate Court names 3 to oversee guardianships

Hardin County woman indicted on mail, wire fraud charges

Edward L. Stanton III, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, announced today that Martha Marie Bizzell, 42, of Crump, was indicted earlier this week by a federal grand jury sitting in the Western District of Tennessee on charges of mail and wire fraud.

According to the 17-count indictment, Bizzell was appointed as guardian of a husband and wife who were disabled adults in Peoria County, Illinois. The couple needed the services of a guardian to ensure their physical and financial security and well-being.

The indictment alleges that after being appointed as guardian, Bizzell relocated the couple to the Western District of Tennessee and took over management of their finances. The couple's estate was then worth approximately $1.5 million. Assets were in the form of stock, real estate and cash, and included Certificates of Deposit valued at approximately $118,120; an investment account valued at approximately $638,098; Caterpillar stock valued at approximately $585,000 and 52 rental properties located in Illinois.

Bizzell allegedly ordered the sale of the Caterpillar stock, disposed of the couple's real estate holdings, and withdrew money from investment and savings accounts, according to the news release from the U.S. attorney. The proceeds were then deposited into Bizzell's bank accounts, the release said.

From between Nov. 10, 2011 through July 30, 2012, Bizzell took into her personal possession approximately $1,082,342 in funds belonging to the disabled couple, authorities said.

Full Article & Source:
Hardin County woman indicted on mail, wire fraud charges

Shocking nursing home abuse caught on camera

WINTER HAVEN, Florida (WFLA) – A hidden camera placed inside a patient’s room at a Winter Haven, Florida nursing home captured images that have two employees facing criminal charges.

It shows an employee rubbing her hand down a 76-year-old Alzheimer’s patient’s face, making punching motions, threatening to hit him.

Later, the camera captures an employee stepping back and lunging toward the man, throwing his legs to one side and grabbing his wrists as he struggles to pull away, making him hit himself in the face and keeping him from sitting up and holding his legs down.

Then an employee acting like she’s going to slap him, he tried to shield himself, she slaps him with her other hand then runs away.

The man’s son spotted bruises, so he hid a camera.

“I am so sorry for what he had to endure here. I said I had no idea what was happening to you. I said, I know there were people in here being mean to you, they can’t be mean to you anymore, they’re gone, I promise,” said Dale Wilson.

Full Article & Source:
Shocking nursing home abuse caught on camera

Friday, October 31, 2014

Mentally ill man's home to be sold by state-appointed guardian

GENESEE COUNTY, MI (WNEM) -  A mid-Michigan man is upset after his rights have been stripped to care for his mentally ill son and now the son's home is being sold by his state-appointed guardian.

Lendon Chambers says his wife, Emma, has a terminal illness and his adult son suffers from a mental illness. A Genesee County Probate Court says Chambers can not care for both of them so the court has named a guardian to deal with his son's needs.

Chambers says he is frustrated and worries about his son's assets.

The son's home is now up for sale and Chambers wonders where the money from the sale will be going.

The guardian says if an incapacitated person has assets, the money from that sale is first used to pay for funeral home expenses. The rest of the money is used for food, clothing and medical needs for the patient.

The guardian also says that every cent is monitored by the probate court. She also says that frustration felt by family members is not unusual.

She also says that family members can seek legal action in probate court if they have concerns about their loved one's care.

Full Article, Video & Source:
Mentally ill man's home to be sold by state-appointed guardian

Jones named in guardianship dispute

State superintendent’s candidate Jana Jones has been named in a civil case over the guardianship of her husband’s elderly parents.

In the civil complaint, one of Jana Jones’ brothers-in-law says the candidate and her husband received a loan from Ross V. Jones and Lorraina R. Jones and convinced the couple to write off the debt. Jana Jones says no debt is outstanding — and she provided a 2013 document, signed by her in-laws, in which they say they have willingly made many gifts of money to their children.

The guardianship case was initially filed on July 23, but the loan question surfaced in a document filed on Oct. 16. Jana Jones says the claim was filed in an attempt to gain “notoriety.” Attorneys for the family say the filing was politically motivated; Al Barrus, an attorney for Ross V. and Lorraina Jones, called the filing a “smear campaign.”

The case will be heard in a Cassia County magistrate court on Nov. 7 — three days after Jones, a Democrat, and Republican Sherri Ybarra vie for the open state superintendent’s post.

Until then, the civil case amounts to claims and counterclaims.

In the Oct. 16 document, Michael Von Jones of Twin Falls says his parents made a $150,000 loan to Jana Jones and her husband, Ross J. Jones.

Some years later, Jana and Ross J. Jones had the means to repay the loan, Michael Jones says in his filing. But instead, he said, they “unduly influenced and prevailed upon” Ross V. and Lorraina Jones to forgive the debt.

Jana Jones says her husband received the loan from his parents for his business, and his parents were granted a lien on Jana and Ross J. Jones’ home. The home deed was turned back over to Jana and Ross J. Jones in October 2010. Jana Jones says she was not involved in the loan — but said it was for far less than $150,000.

Al Barrus, an attorney for Ross V. and Lorraina Jones, says he learned of the Oct. 16 claim on Wednesday, and discussed it with his clients later that day. He has prepared an affidavit that says his clients are not owed any money.

“They were adamant that (Ross J. Jones) does not owe them any money whatsoever,” Barrus said Thursday.

The crux of the July 23 filing centers on custodianship.

Michael Jones says his parents need a guardian, and a conservator to oversee their material assets. A doctor has examined the parents and found them to be capable of living independently, said Jeffrey Rolig, Michael Jones’ attorney. Rolig wants to get a second opinion on their condition — a motion opposed not only by Ross V. and Lorraina Jones, and by Michael Jones’ siblings.

Full Article & Source:
Jones named in guardianship dispute

Thursday, October 30, 2014

How New York’s Elderly Lose Their Homes to Guardianship

A prominent New York attorney is caught in the middle of apparent abuses of the elderly and allegedly pilfers their estate during the guardianship process, according to relatives of victims who hope to bring exposure that will stop her actions.

Mary Giordano is a partner with the New York State law firm, Franchina and Giordano, and among her duties is that Giordano is routinely chosen by the Nassau County Superior Court system to be a guardian for elderly guardianship cases.

But two relatives involved in cases in which Giordano was a guardian say their relatives were forcibly removed from their homes, their assets plundered, and their family members had the life sucked out of them until they died depressed and isolated.

Diane Wilson found her mother Dorothy Wilson lying helpless on the floor of her home and unable to get up on December 8, 2008. Advised due to long standing family disputes to enter her mother into guardianship, Wilson said by March 2009, at the order of then Nassau Supreme Court Judge Joel Asarch (pictured above) Asarch appointed Giordano as the court appointed guardian, even though Diane had filed to be her mother's guardian.

As Wilson’s guardian, Giordano was given power over nearly every decision in Wilson’s life including how her money was spent, where she lived, and her medical care.

Giordano ordered a reverse mortgage be placed on Dorothy Wilson’s home which netted about $275,000 and along with Wlson’s pension of about $2,300 month, Judge Asarch claimed in court the money would last for five years.

But it only lasted two years, and Diane Wilson told RebelPundit that proper accounting of the expenses were never provided by Giordano.

Worse yet, in November 2010, Wilson was tricked and forced to move out of her home and into a nursing home.

“Dorothy Wilson is currently placed in the Bristal, an assisted living facility in Massapequa. She was taken there on November 3, 2010, on the pretense of having lunch, by her daughter, Candice Bruder,” Diane Wilson said in a complaint to the New York State Unified Court Grievance Committee. “After she was there, she was told she was moving in there and her clothes were brought later that same day. She is not allowed to leave the Bristal at all, including Thanksgiving. The family is only permitted to go there and visit.”

The elder Wilson, who was 87 at the beginning of the process, was miserable and felt like a prisoner her entire time at Bristal.

“On November 15 (2010), after placing three phone calls during a 3 ½ hour period, I was finally able to speak with my mother. During the entire phone call her “caseworker”, Tracy, sat next to her while my mother begged me to come and pick her up and take her home. She had no privacy. When I went to visit her in the evening, she cried the entire time, begging me to take her home, asking me over and over again why I never came, why no one visited her, why no one called,” Diane Wilson said the same complaint.

Wilson was force to stay in the facility for thirty days at a cost of $53,000, and Giordano never provided a line by line breakdown of why the costs were so high.

On August 22, 2011, on the direction of Giordano, Dorothy Wilson was again moved to Meadowbrook Care Nursing Home in Freeport, New York again against her will.

On September 2, 2011, Giordano again moved Wilson into another nursing home Maria Regina Nursing Home in Brentwood, NY. Giordano also attempted to sell Wilson’s house.

What followed was a series of furious court maneuvers until on October 18, 2011, Giordano resigned as guardian but still Judge Asarch kept Dorothy Wilson in the nursing home. She died there on October 23, 2011.

Throughout the process Dorothy Wilson sent a series of letters to the judge begging to be allowed to be cared for by her daughter.

“It’s very strange that my daughter Diane is not allowed to go into my house.” Dorothy Wilson said in a letter dated October 20, 2011. “She is the only one I trust.”

Dorothy Wilson also made a series of You Tube videos begging to be released.

To continue reading, click here.

Full Article & Source:
How New York’s Elderly Lose Their Homes to Guardianship

Sibling Rivalry in Probate Disputes

Siblings can become involved in probate litigation in many ways. A sibling may try to challenge a parent's will. One sibling may try to set aside a conveyance of real estate, or transfer other assets that a parent made to another sibling. Several cases concern whether a sibling who is an executor is fulfilling his or her duties to the other beneficiaries.

Many conflicts begin when a parent treats children unequally in a will or trust. A testator certainly can do what he or she wants with his or her property. The profligate son or nasty daughter may very well not deserve an equal share. Or it may seem unfair if the CEO son receives as much as his schoolteacher brother. But it is very difficult for a child of any age to accept unfair treatment. Wealth or professional status often does little to mitigate the myriad motions someone feels when a parent treats a brother or a sister more favorably. These emotions can fuel litigation. While all litigation should be based on good faith legal claims supported by facts, very often these emotions – right or wrong – prolong and complicate the litigation.

Parents, when devising estate plans, should consider sibling dynamics, and should consider both the emotional and financial consequences of treating children differently. There are good arguments for treating each child equally. There are also good arguments for recognizing each child's economic circumstances. Well-drafted estate plans can greatly reduce the types of legal claims a disgruntled child can make.

But sometimes the caretaker child is not quite a saint. This child may feel entitled and try to exert undue influence upon the parent to convey assets or change estate plans for the child's benefit. The courts are filled with cases where a child misuses a power of attorney or otherwise takes advantage of a vulnerable parent. These cases are challenging because the caretaker child may be part martyr and part scoundrel. The distant sibling may have a hard time contradicting the closer sibling's testimony about what the parent said or did. The closer sibling may rationalize, exaggerate or outright lie.

Full Article and Source:
Sibling Rivalry in Probate Disputes

See Also:
NASGA:  An Open Door

Planning with POLST

POLST, or Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment, is an approach to end-of-life care that encourages discussions between patients and their health care providers. The goal of POLST is to enable patients to choose the treatment they want or do not want, and to ensure that those preferences are honored.

With POLST, patients discuss with their doctors their diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment alternatives, including the benefits and burdens of life-sustaining treatment, as well as the patients’ values, beliefs, and goals for care. Based on these conversations, patients (or their health care agents) and their health care providers complete a POLST form, which documents the patient’s wishes with respect to end-of-life care. The POLST form is signed by the patient’s health care provider and becomes a part of the patient’s medical record. The form serves as the patient’s standing medical orders for that patient’s particular treatment preferences in the event of a medical emergency.

On a POLST form, the patient selects (1) whether or not they wish to be given CPR; (2) what degree of medical intervention they want in an acute situation: “comfort measures only,” “limited additional interventions,” or “full treatment;” and (3) the extent to which they want artificial nutrition to be administered, if at all. The POLST form is a single page, brightly colored, and designed to be immediately recognizable and used by doctors and first responders alike.

The POLST form is signed by the patient’s doctor (or, in some states, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant) and is a medical order. A copy is kept in the patient’s medical record, so it can be easily accessed in an emergency. Some states allow the forms to be logged into an electronic registry.

The POLST Paradigm, the national organization behind POLST, advises that POLST forms are not for everyone. They are recommended for “seriously ill or frail patients for whom their physicians would not be surprised if they died in the next year.”

Full Article and Source:
Planning with POLST

New Massachusetts Guardianship Law

On January 1, 2015, the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (UAGPPJ) takes effect in Massachusetts. The law supplements existing guardianship laws in the state to provide a mechanism for resolving multi-state jurisdictional disputes. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed the legislation which makes Massachusetts the thirty-ninth state to adopt the UAGPPJ. A similar bill was presented previously to the legislature in Rhode Island and is expected to be re-introduced this year.

Full Article & Source:
New Massachusetts Guardianship Law

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Probate judge troubles continue

A former Probate Court worker will move forward with the lawsuit against Rockdale County Probate Court Judge Charles K. Mays, Sr. for almost $20,000 of unpaid backpay after no response was received from Mays or the county by the Friday deadline, according to her attorney. A related lawsuit and a separate lawsuit involved Mays will also move forward in Magistrate Court in November.

Freya Pearson, through her attorney Michael Waldrop, had threatened to sue Mays if the $20,000 in wages and expenses was not paid by Friday, 4 p.m. Waldrop said no response had been received by the deadline and that they would be filing the lawsuit on Monday, Oct. 27.

Mays family advisor Pastor Charmaine Moss nee Hutcheson told The News last Sunday, Oct. 19, that DJ Asante was working on a statement from the Mays family.

On Monday while leaving his office, Mays declined to comment but did say regarding Pearson, "None of the allegations she's making are true." Mays said a statement would be sent from his attorney DJ Asante by Tuesday. However no statement received by press time Friday. Asante is not a member of the Georgia Bar nor the South Carolina Bar, according to the online member directory.

Since then, attempts to reach Mays for comment were not returned by press time.

Two other lawsuits involving Mays - one by contractor Rodney Scott who thought he was buying a condominium from Mays and invested $10,500 in renovating the unit, and one from the Mays Family Trust against Pearson for $5,600 unpaid rent - will also move forward in Magistrate Court Nov. 5.

Magistrate Court Judge Phinia Aten filed to recuse herself and Magistrate Judges Garland Moore and Cindy Stacey from both cases. The replacement judge will be selected by the District 4 Representative of the Council of Magistrate Court Judges Executive Committee, Beryl Anderson.

Freya Pearson
Pearson, a family friend, moved around the end of February from California with her 13-year-old daughter and 5-year-old granddaughter to live with the Mays' family in their rented McCalla Street home in order to work on setting up a Veterans or Mental Health accountability court.

Since Mays is not an active attorney nor a member of the Georgia Bar, any accountability court handling felony matters would need to be handled with the Superior Court, according to the Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts. Probate Courts typically handle matters such as birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, gun licenses, adoptions, wills.

According to documents obtained by an Open Records Request, the court applied to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council in March 2014 for about $360,000 to set up a Veterans and Mental Health Court targeting offenders with misdemeanors without substance abuse problems or who were "actively or acutely psychotic" with charges based on their illness. That application was turned down.

A letter sent June 2014 from Superior Court Judge David Irwin to the Rockdale County Finance Department stated, regarding the authority to operate accountability courts, "I have had conversations with Judge Charles Mays informing him that he does not have such authority and I would not assist him or his office in seeking funds for such an endeavor."

An invoice submitted by Pearson calculated she had worked 616 regular hours and 239 overtime hours, and included a trip to the North Carolina Veterans Court in June that was paid out of pocket for a total of $24,125. She was paid $4,420 through temp agency payments and one payment from the county.

The Probate Court had applied for a grant in 2013 from the Hospital Authority of Rockdale County for helping indigent residents pay for the fees to gain legal decision making powers for incapacitated adults, but that application was turned down.

No other grants were reportedly gained by the Probate Court, according to a county spokesperson.

Full Article & Source:
Probate judge troubles continue

Accountability court effort led to legal woes for Probate Court judge

CONYERS — An application for arrest warrants against a Rockdale County judge is directly linked to the judge’s effort to establish an accountability court — something he is not legally qualified to do.

The warrant application, filed in Superior Court on Monday by Freya Pearson, alleges that Probate Court Judge Charles K. Mays Sr. knew that he could not legally operate an accountability court but continued to employ her as a consultant on the project anyway. Pearson is alleging two counts of theft of services against Mays for failure to pay her nearly $20,000 in back wages.

Pearson, represented by Conyers attorney Michael Waldrop, also alleges that Mays committed two counts of theft by deception by using state and county money in pursuit of establishing an accountability court, again while knowing he could not legally run the court.

Mays did not respond to a Citizen request for comment about his efforts to establish an accountability court or about his eligibility to operate such a court.

Rockdale County’s Probate Court submitted an application for an accountability court grant to the state Criminal Justice Coordinating Council on March 25. The grant proposal requested nearly $360,000, which would have required a 10 percent local match. The grant request was ultimately denied.

According to the proposal, the funds would have been used to fund a full-time program coordinator position at $82,400; a part-time program assistant at $23,514 and a part-time community outreach employee at $22,131, in addition to supplies, furniture, travel, conferences, and contract services for surveillance and mental health services.

Pearson alleges that about two months after the grant application was filed — between May and June — Mays took her and another woman, who was not a Probate Court employee, to California “for the purported purpose of obtaining information for a mental health court and/or a veterans court …” Pearson claims that Mays used about $8,000 in funds from the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to fund the trip.

Pearson further alleges that she also traveled to North Carolina at Mays’ direction to observe a mental health court in action.

Pearson claims in the warrant application that Mays was advised by Chief Superior Court Judge David Irwin on two separate occasions — both before and after the five-day California trip — that Mays was “legally prohibited from operating either of those courts.”

A letter from Irwin to Rockdale County Finance Director Roselyn Miller, dated June 6, supports that allegation. In the letter, Irwin outlined the jurisdiction of the Probate Court in Rockdale County and stated, “In larger counties (population), probate judges have the authority to hold jury trials in certain cases. Rockdale County is not one of those counties.”

Full Article & Source:

Lou Reed Walked on the Wild Side With His Estate Planning

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.  After all, Lou Reed was the man who famously crooned, “Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side.”  The late lead singer and guitarist of The Velvet Underground — and of course, a musician and songwriter with a successful, decades-long solo career — may have been a bit wild at times.  But that doesn’t explain why he would be so careless with his estate plan.  This is a man with an estate worth more than $30 million — perhaps substantially more, in fact.

Recent filings with the Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan (that’s probate court, for us non-New Yorkers) show that Lou Reed’s estate has already earned $20,379,169 (give or take a few bucks) since he passed away from liver disease on October 27, 2013, at the age of 71.  This is only the income that the estate has brought in since his death, from his copyright, publishing and performance royalties and other deals put together under the skillful management of his longtime manager and friend, Robert Gotterer.  Gotterer is one of the two co-executors of Reed’s estate.

Lou Reed relied on a will he signed in April 2012.  A 34-page will, reportedly, but a will nonetheless.  Why would someone with assets worth tens of millions of dollars rely on a will, instead of a revocable living trust (at the very least)?

That’s the question that doesn’t appear to have a good answer.  The New York Post is all over the probate filings in Reed’s estate, breaking the news over what comes in and out, who gets what, and what everything is worth.  Media outlets across the country have picked up these details and released their own stories about the details and value of Lou Reed’s estate.

If Lou Reed had used a revocable living trust, and transferred his assets into the trust during his life, then all of this information would have been kept private.  No one would know how much he had, whom he left it to, or how much his executors were charging.  That’s a key difference between wills and trusts.  Wills have to pass through probate court to work, which is a public process.  Trusts, when used the right way, avoid probate court entirely.

Full Article and Source:
Lou Reed Walked on the Wild Side With His Estate Planning

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


DETROIT — Saying, “True love never fails against the greatest obstacles,” Wayne County Probate Court Judge Terrance Keith removed attorney Mary Rowan as guardian for Mailauni Williams, 32, and appointed her sister Monique Williams as “interim” guardian. He said his ultimate intent is to send Mailauni back home with her mother Lennette Williams, with whom she has spent her entire life.

Grosse Pointe Farms police seized her from her home in May, after a cursory visit by Adult Protective Services, but no evident court order.

Mailauni was born with cerebral palsy and other injuries resulting from medical malpractice at her birth, which also caused permanent physical damage to her mother. Henry Ford Hospital agreed to a settlement that, spread over the years, would amount to $30 million.

“I love my daughter and have always taken care of her,” Williams tearfully told Judge Keith. “I need my daughter back and she needs me. I would die for my daughter. She is my hero. There are those who thought the hospital settlement was too much for people of color.”

Judge Keith said he had seen records indicating that doctors expected Mailauni to live only two and a half years at most, and that he was impressed both by Lennette Williams dedication in nurturing her daughter to adulthood, and by her professional pro see court filings in response to court-appointed attorneys and guardians attempts to take her away for 20 years.

“I used to take her to the doctor, and he told me I did not have an M.D.,” Williams said. “But I have something better called love. God was working through me. Mailauni walked at 5, and danced to the music of Michael Jackson.” Mailauni later graduated from Grosse Pointe High School. Her graduation portrait is proudly displayed on the mantel of her home in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Mailauni began visiting civil rights icon Rosa Parks at the age of five. Parks adopted her as her godchild.  Elaine Steele and Anita Peek of the Raymond and Rosa Parks Foundation have been active in advocating for her return to her mother. Arnetta Grable of the Original Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality and Cornell Squires of We the People for the People are also close friends supporting Mailauni’s return home.

For the last eight years, Macomb County Judge Kathryn George presided over the case, at the request of Wayne County Probate Court Chief Judge Milton Mack, Jr.

Subsequent to a bizarre hearing in June during which George appointed Rowan as guardian with for at least a year, jailed Lennette Williams, eliminated estate payments for hers and Mailauni’s needs, and had her own court clerk testify as a sworn-in witness, Attorney Allison Folmar got George removed from the case. George had previously been removed as Macomb County Chief Probate Judge after well-publicized allegations of financial malfeasance. She was barred then from dealing with cases involving estates and trusts.

George had also threatened to jail Folmar during the June hearing.

Keith asked Rowan Oct. 9 how she had come to be appointed as guardian. During the June hearing, Mailauni’s sister Monique Williams asked to be appointed as an alternative to foster care home placement. Her mother and a court-appointed attorney said guardianships should go to family members if possible, and the sister said she was confident that Mailauni would also do well with her mother.

Full Article & Source:

My Turn: Legislation added protections for elderly

Mark Connolly did an excellent job of explaining the ever-growing problem of elder financial exploitation (Monitor Forum, Oct. 17).

On a national level, approximately $2.9 billion per year is stolen from seniors. And as the elder population continues to increase, this figure will only increase.

In New Hampshire, the elder population is expected to double by 2025 and, as Connolly states, trends could result in one-third of our state, or 500,000 New Hampshire citizens, being over the age of 65 by 2030.

While New Hampshire does have mandatory reporting laws regarding the suspected abuse and exploitation of elders and special certifications for elderly financial professionals, these provisions have not been sufficient to adequately protect our state’s older adults.

Unfortunately, neither the Monitor nor Connolly mentioned that this past year the New Hampshire Legislature took a giant step toward correcting this problem.

In January, in partnership with the Merrimack County Coordinated Response Team, I introduced House Bill 1555, a law to strengthen our state’s ability to respond to financial exploitation of elderly, disabled and impaired adults.

The bill garnered strong support from a broad range of stakeholders, including Gov. Maggie Hassan, a bipartisan group of legislators, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, AARP-NH, New Hampshire Legal Assistance, the New Hampshire Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the New Hampshire Bankers Association.

The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, gives law enforcement officers and prosecutors clear guidance on the various acts that constitute the crime of financial exploitation and will support their efforts to successfully investigate and prosecute offenders.

Some of the key aspects of the bill include:

∎ Making it a crime for fiduciaries who, for their own profit or advantage, deprive or take real or personal property of an elderly, disabled or impaired adult for the benefit of someone other than the adult.

∎ Making it a crime for a person through the use of undue influence, harassment, duress, force, compulsion of coercion to acquire possession or control of an interest in real or personal property of an elderly, disabled or impaired adult.

∎ Imposing criminal penalties on offenders who know or reasonably should have known that the victim is an elderly, disabled or impaired adult.

∎ Giving law enforcement concurrent jurisdiction with BEAS to investigate reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation of incapacitated adults.

∎ Broadening protection against financial exploitation beyond “incapacitated” adults. 

House Bill 1555 sends a strong and much-needed message to potential exploiters that New Hampshire will not tolerate this type of mistreatment of our state’s most vulnerable citizens, including our seniors. 

I am proud to have sponsored this important legislation and helped secure its passage by the Legislature. 

(Katherine Rogers is a state representative from Concord.)

Full Article & Source:
My Turn: Legislation added protections for elderly

Experience 12 Minutes in Alzheimer's Dementia

Just what is a loved one with dementia going through? A 12-minute virtual Alzheimer's tour reveals more than you ever imagined.

Experience 12 Minutes in Alzheimer's Dementia

Monday, October 27, 2014

Forbidden: The Fool’s Challenge

All you people claiming to advocate for the elderly and disabled, just who do you think you are to challenge judicial decisions, facilities, attorneys, conservators, guardians and fiduciaries?  They are, after all, proven, by their positions, to be above reproach.  How dare you challenge their intent, actions and/or character!
Judges, attorneys, CEO’s and others in charge have proven by the stations they have risen to, to be of perfection… the elite of the world… the all-knowing… and the all honest.  Never do they take advantage of their positions for personal financial gain nor to have a personal agenda in play.  Never do they do anything beneath their position.  To suggest otherwise is to be singled out to be disgraced and to possibly be labelled a threat or even mentally unbalanced.

I’m not sure what has happened to common sense and healthy thought process, but some kind of virus has been on the attack, it would seem.  Facts seem to be subjective or totally irrelevant.  It’s almost as though we are living in the “mad house” out here in the everyday world.  Too many things, arguments and decisions are outright crazy.

We have various Courts that worry about individuals taking advantage of the elderly or disabled, while signing off on outrageous fees for attorneys, appointed guardians and so forth.  What is the difference between the latter and the former?  Oh, is it because the latter is condoned by the courts and protected by some carelessly written law or skillful misinterpretation?  That somehow makes one right and the other wrong?

Worse than the money drain by the courts and appointed anointed-ones is the power to isolate the victims.  (Yes, victims.  What else would you call the people, who suddenly are imprisoned and forced to be and have done unto them what they would not, and do not, want done unto them and theirs?)

How can someone that robs another of companionship, enjoyment, freedom, money, property and simply an existence called living, be considered humane?  Animals are treated better than many of the elderly and disabled thrown into the system, because they could be thrown into the system — even if by a wrongful technicality in the law or by a court that is complicit due to bias or simply doesn’t look beyond the surface or listen to the bothersome advocates or nobodies that dare speak against the supposed “perfect” attorneys, professional guardians and such?  They never lie or steal or do unethical things, now do they?

In recent news, we have heard…

“WASHINGTON — Three central Ohio nursing homes were among 33 in 11 states cited for improper care and billing practices yesterday as part of a $38 million settlement among a major nursing-home company, the U.S. Department of Justice and the state of Ohio.

“The announcement in Washington and Columbus resolved an investigation by the federal government, Ohio and seven other states into charges that Extendicare of Canada provided services at those 33 homes that were “materially substandard” or “worthless” because the company did not provide care to residents that meets federal standards, according to the settlement agreement.”  (Federal investigation finds three local nursing homes lacking )

Now wait a minute.  I thought “all” facilities provided only the best of care and that complainers were just making things up or exaggerating.  They weren’t?

More recent news…

“The Ohio Supreme Court has suspended Akron attorney Rami M. Awadallah from practicing law after ruling that he fraudulently and deceptively represented several of his clients — including some in Lorain County — during court proceedings.”  (Ohio Supreme Court suspends area attorney)

What’s that?  An attorney “fraudulently and deceptively represented several of his clients”?  But… but… but… I thought that was impossible?  I thought “all” attorneys “always” spoke nothing but the truth and “always” acted in the best interest of the client or ward.  He didn’t?  What’s up with this?

More in the news…

“Paul S. Kormanik, a Columbus attorney considered up until two months ago to be legal guardian to more incompetent people than anyone else in the nation, was indicted today on theft charges by a Franklin County grand jury.

Prosecutor Ron O’Brien and Attorney General Mike DeWine will announce the charges this afternoon after the grand jury determined there was sufficient evidence that Kormanik stole about $41,000 from two of his wards.”  (Lawyer indicted for theft from those he was supposed to protect)

An attorney — a legal guardian — was indicted for what?  Stealing?  Stealing from people he was the guardian for?  Oh my!  Bubble buster!

While we are talking about a system lacking perfection and often tilted towards the powerful, though not necessarily the righteous or side with the cleanest of hands, let’s return, for a moment, to discussion involving isolation of the wards.  What judge or guardian or facility could possibly think isolation of a non-violent, non-contagious person is a good thing?

Decades ago, researchers found there is such a thing as “failure to thrive”.  It actually exists.  There is no question.   Why then, would anyone place another person in isolation and risk that person dying due to “failure to thrive”?  Why?  How can it be justified?  It can’t!  Therefore, I believe, anyone involved in isolating a non-violent, non-contagious person, should have to answer why they should not be charged with kidnapping and abuse or even murder, should the person die as a result.

I can think of numerous cases where people have been thrown into isolation and the ironies surrounding it all is out there in a suburb of the Twilight Zone.  Yes, so amazing is it all that I’m surprised a “duh” isn’t permanently imprinted upon both the perps and the out-of-touch — can’t get it — zombie followers that go around drooling false talking points, as though it is gospel, while alleging the truth-tellers are the liars.

When a ward is put into isolation, who is the threat?  The one that ordered the isolation or the one challenging it?

When a petition is presented to starve & dehydrate a ward, who is the threat?  The person who did the petitioning or the one that fights for life, visitation, rehabilitation and stimulation?

The answers should be quite easy to figure out, but instead, it looks as though too much power and trust has been placed where not deserved.  It would seem, according to recent news, that we can’t always assume the courts and appointed anointed-ones are of perfection and holier than thou after all.  Maybe sometimes they are up to no good and their word isn’t worth what comes out of a donkey’s rump.  And, maybe sometimes people are wrong, but without any ill-intent.  Maybe they just lost sight and are blinded by self-preservation and inability to admit error.  But how do we know?  How do we know, if we don’t inquire and investigate behind the curtain, especially a curtain pulled tightly, as if to keep any from peeking in?

To continue reading, click here.

Full Article & Source:
Forbidden: The Fool’s Challenge

Palm Springs fiduciary Ron Olund accused of negligence

Maxine Douglas on Dec 29, 2010, after she was back living at her home. She died Jan 8, 2011.(Photo:Courtesy of Janis Garcia)

A Palm Springs fiduciary is facing discipline from a state board on accusations he bungled a senior woman's finances.

Ron Olund was entrusted by a judge with preserving an 82-year-old's estate from 2009 to 2010, but a complaint leveled by Professional Fiduciaries Bureau Chief Julia Ansel accuses him of failing to pay the woman's bills, accruing late fees and bouncing checks.

Maxine Douglas' supplemental Medicare health insurance was canceled, her TV and phone services disconnected and her home narrowly escaped foreclosure during Olund's stint as her fiduciary, the accusation states.

According to the complaint, Olund committed incompetence, gross negligence, willful violation of duty and unprofessional conduct. The state Attorney General's Office is providing legal counsel.

Olund's professional fiduciary license may be suspended or revoked and he may have to pay the investigation and enforcement fees if found guilty by the state Office of Administrative Hearings on Tuesday in San Diego.

Olund did not return several calls for comment.

The bureau took no disciplinary action in 2008-2010, four actions in 2011, 11 in 2013, 10 in 2013 and five so far in 2014, according to its website. Punishments include written reprimands, citations, two- or three-year probation and license revocation.

"They have a relatively small licensee population of about 700," said Monica Vargas, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Consumer Affairs. "Any complaint the bureau receives is looked at and investigated, but not everything warrants a disciplinary hearing against a license."

Douglas died at home with her daughters beside her in 2011, six weeks after they agreed to be her co-conservators so they could take back control of her finances and get her out of a Palm Springs assisted living home.

Cathedral City's former Mayor Carol Joseph and her sister Janis Garcia will testify on their mother's behalf against Olund on Tuesday, after Garcia filed a complaint in June 2010.

Full Article & Source:
Palm Springs fiduciary Ron Olund accused of negligence

Depressed seniors more vulnerable to exploitation

Older adults with severe depression and low social-status fulfillment are more apt to be victims of fraud, according to a study done by Peter Liehtenberg, director of the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University.

Liehtenberg studied the problem in 4,440 older adults and found fraud increased by 226 percent under those circumstances.

“Psychological vulnerability can impact older adults’ lives in serious ways,” said Lichtenberg, who planned to present his findings to Congress. He will also moderate a panel assembled by Florida congressman Ted Deutch and Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar to bring attention to the Seniors Fraud Prevention Bill they recently introduced in Congress.

One out of 20 older adults in the United States will be a victim of financial exploitation this year, with average losses ranging from $79,000 to $186,000. Guilt, fear and embarrassment often inhibit victims from reporting the crime and prosecuting the criminal.

In response to this growing problem, Lichtenberg created a set of scales and assessments to uncover whether a person is unable to make sound, rational financial decisions and/or be subject to undue influence and found it was reliable in its predictions.

Full Article & Source:
Depressed seniors more vulnerable to exploitation

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ridgefield mother claims abuse in court-appointed guardianship

Collette DiVitto & Rosemary Alfredo

RIDGEFIELD -- Following an acrimonious divorce, Rosemary Alfredo and her ex-husband couldn't agree whether their then-23-year-old daughter, Collette, who has Down syndrome, should move with her to Boston.

Alfredo felt her daughter, who holds a job and graduated from a special college for students with intellectual disabilities, could live independently there, with help from more comprehensive Massachusetts social services.

Her father disagreed, arguing Collette should be placed in a group home in Ridgefield.

So the couple went to Probate Court, where Judge Joseph Egan appointed a guardian ad litem, Danbury attorney Sharon Dornfeld, to represent Collette's interests and make recommendations to the judge about the move.

Alfredo at first welcomed the appointment.

"I thought it was better than dealing with my ex-husband," she said.

In May, Alfredo found a place in Boston, hoping to move there permanently with Collette. In July, the court allowed Collette to stay there temporarily, with a final decision pending an assessment by state-appointed experts.

But on Oct. 10, the judge gave Alfredo 10 days to return Collette to Connecticut to live with her father, Daniel DiVitto, in Ridgefield.

"The court is trying to take my daughter away against her will and put her somewhere where she doesn't want to be," Alfredo said.

Dornfeld refused to comment on the case, as did Elizabeth Sharpe, a Greenwich attorney appointed as Collette's limited guardian. Egan also declined to comment.

Alfredo has decided to disobey the court order. And she is fighting the guardians, who she believes are no longer acting in her daughter's best interests. She has racked up more than $50,000 in legal bills in a system she says is violating her daughter's civil liberties.

Collette is thriving in her new environment, her mother said. She works as a teacher's aide in an elementary school, goes to Zumba classes, takes self-defense lessons and has many friends.

Alfredo said Collette does not want to return to Connecticut, and she believes her daughter's wishes should be respected.

Besides, she said, the court already has access to three psychological evaluations that prove Collette's competency.

In one of those evaluations, she is described as "an articulate and sociable young woman who demonstrates a broad range of skills and resourcefulness which far exceed what one might expect on the basis of her tested IQ."

Alfredo said Collette even asked Egan in an earlier court appearance to replace Sharpe because she doesn't like her, but the judge refused.

"This is not about a mother's fight for her child," Alfredo said. "This has to do with a young girl with Down syndrome whose civil rights are being violated. She has the right to live the life that she wants and nobody is letting her do that."

Barbara Jackins, an attorney with the Special Needs Law Group of Massachusetts who is familiar with the case and with Collette, characterized Sharpe's approach to the case as "overly legalistic."

"This seems like a runaway guardianship case," Jackins said. "It's just bewildering how anyone would make (Collette) move back to Connecticut, away from a package of services in Massachusetts, and go live with her father, who she doesn't get along with."

Alfredo said she is willing to take whatever risks come from defying the court order, because she feels it's what Collette wants.

"My daughter won't go," Alfredo said. "And I'm not going to physically force her."

Full Article & Source:
Ridgefield mother claims abuse in court-appointed guardianship

Carrollton Lawyer Under Investigation for Alleged Theft

Authorities are looking deeper into the bank records of a Carrollton lawyer accused of forging records and stealing tens of thousands of dollars from at least one client.

Capt. Jeff Richards of the Carroll County Sheriff's Department said in a written statement that the investigation "has produced more than one victim, and [investigators] believe that more victims will surface."

Sheriff's deputies arrested Robert B. Eddleman on Oct. 9 and charged him with forgery and theft by taking. Eddleman, who was released the same day on a recognizance bond, could not be reached for comment. (Calls to his office were directed to his voicemail and his firm's website no longer appears to be operational.)

The charges stem from an allegation by a former client whose mother paid Eddleman approximately $20,000 earlier this year to represent him in a criminal proceeding, Richards said.

"The client was desirous of getting bond so he could return to work," said Richards.

Eddleman and his friend Joseph Matt Rooks, who is not an attorney, are accused of filing forged power of attorney documents with the Carroll County Superior Court Clerk's office and sending a forged resignation letter to the client's employer so that they could obtain $30,000 from the client's retirement account, Richards said. The pair deposited the money into Eddleman's trust account and then immediately withdrew the money.

Rooks, who is related to the client, also is charged with forgery and theft, Richards said. He was released from jail on Oct. 10 on $10,000 bond. Investigators do not believe Rooks is associated with any of the other instances under investigation.

Richards said investigators are trying to verify allegations that Eddleman may have kept money issued to another client in a wrongful termination suit in early 2013 and that Eddleman may have forged documents to alter the terms of settlement in a third, unrelated case.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the Eddleman matter, Richards said.

"The GBI financial analysis unit and investigators are doing a forensic review of Eddleman's trust account and preparing flow charts of the disbursement of funds," he said.

Eddleman, who earned his law degree from Georgia State University and was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in 2005, does not have a public disciplinary history. Richards said the sheriff's department has been in contact with bar officials, but State Bar General Counsel Paula Frederick would not discuss whether the bar was investigating.

Another Carrollton attorney, Joseph Nathaniel Harden, in August pleaded guilty to criminal charges of bilking 30 clients of more than half a million dollars, the Times-Georgian reported. His plea came two years after the state Supreme Court accepted Harden's voluntary surrender of his law license, which is the equivalent of a disbarment.

Full Article & Source:
Carrollton Lawyer Under Investigation for Alleged Theft

Hancock County Probate Judge pleads guilty to stealing county funds

SPARTA, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The Probate Judge for Hancock County pleaded guilty in federal court to stealing county funds.

According to U.S. Attorney Michael Moore, Marva Rice entered a guilty plea on Thursday to two counts of theft of federal funds from Hancock County, which receives federal funds.

The plea agreement states, Rice was responsible for collecting fines and fees and depositing those funds into the Probate Court bank account. According to an investigation by the FBI in 2012, authorities say Rice did not deposit $43,864.70 into the account. In 2013, after the FBI conducted its investigation, authorities say Rice used Hancock County funds to pay for her own personal legal fees, which totaled $20,000.

Full Article & Source:
Hancock County Probate Judge pleads guilty to stealing county funds