Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Genesis of Incapacity

Probate courts use the magic phrase "incapacitation" to cash in on Guardianships illegally imprisoning 10's of thousands of American citizens each year. This video explains why the term is the password to these criminally imposed "guardianships".

YouTube:  The Genesis of Incapacity

'The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America'

The baby boomers are getting older: This year, 4 million people in America will turn 65.
In her new book, The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America, author Ai-jen Poo says that means the country is on the cusp of a major shift.

"The baby boom generation is reaching retirement age at a rate of 10,000 people per day," she tells NPR's Arun Rath. "What that means is that by 2050, 27 million Americans will need some form of long-term care or assistance, and that's the basis for this book."

Poo is the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the co-director of Caring Across Generations, an organization focused on improving the long-term care system in U.S. She says that the current approach of caring for the elderly comes from "a place of scarcity and fear," which has led to a flawed health care model.

Weaving research with stories from seniors and caregivers, she lays out solutions on how to avoid a potential nightmare.

As America Grays, A  Call for Dignity in Aging and Elder Care

Friday, April 17, 2015

Steve Miller: Private "Guardian" Jared E. Shafer's Racket Exposed by Nevada's Largest Newspaper

For more than a year, Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative reporter Colton Lochhead has been quietly preparing a feature story on the activities of local for-hire guardian Jared E. Shafer, and the men and women who enable him and others in his racket to bilk the fortunes of helpless senior citizens and disabled people living in Southern Nevada.

In three front page stories published in the Sunday, April 12, 2015 RJ, Nevada's largest newspaper, Lochhead describes Shafer's rise from snake oil salesman to one of Sin City's leading political players, all at the expense of hapless well-to-do Las Vegas and Henderson retirees and others who had the misfortune of being "discovered" to be in need of special "help" by one of Shafer's Clark County Family Court judges.

In his stories, Colton weaves between Shafer's involvement in a Ponzi Scheme wherein he used money taken from his court appointed "wards" to enrich himself and his CPAs Bruce Gamett and Shawn King, to a strange political billboard company owned by an LLC run by Shafer's attorneys Patricia Trent and Elyse Tyrell, and managed by Shafer's assistant Amy Deittrick from his Pecos Road guardian office. A sign company that coincidentally donates or rents billboards to local judges and politicians who could - in a pinch - help Shafer maintain his power over the elderly without local or state court or government intervention.

Since 2013 when INSIDE VEGAS first attempted to schedule an interview with the shadowy guardian, he has refused to answer numerous telephone calls, emails, or faxed requests, and has held true to his lack of transparency by also refusing to talk to reporters from KTNV TV ABC News or the RJ to tell his side of this sordid story of elder exploitation - a story that if widely known could put a damper on one of Southern Nevada's most lucrative industries, retirement.

Full Article and Source:
Private "Guardian" Jared E. Shafer's Racket Exposed by Nevada's Largest Newspaper

Half the states look at right-to-die legislation

More than a dozen states, plus the District of Columbia, are considering controversial medically assisted death legislation this year.

The laws would allow mentally fit, terminally ill patients age 18 and older, whose doctors say they have six months or less to live, to request lethal drugs.

Oregon was the first state to implement its Death with Dignity Act in 1997 after voters approved the law in 1994, and four other states — Montana, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington — now allow for medically assisted death.

As of April 10, at least another 25 states have considered death with dignity bills, according to Compassion & Choices, a Denver-based nonprofit organization that advocates for these laws. Some of those bills already have died in committee.

"The movement has reached a threshold where it is unstoppable," said President Barbara Coombs Lee of Compassion & Choices, who was also chief petitioner for the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.

The issue of medically assisted death rose to prominence last year with the case of Brittany Maynard, 29, who was told she had six months to live after being diagnosed with brain cancer. Maynard was a strong advocate for Death with Dignity, and when she learned of her grim prognosis, she moved from her home state of California to Oregon where terminally ill patients are allowed to end their own lives.  (Click to continue reading)

Full Article & Source:
Half the states look at right-to-die legislation

Bank teller sentenced for theft

SUMMERSIDE — A former city bank employee has been sentenced for stealing thousands of dollars from sick and elderly clients.

Heather Sue Morrison, 56, of Sherbrooke was sentenced Tuesday to three months in jail, plus three years of probation.

A request for her to serve her time in jail on weekends so she could continue with her extensive and long-standing volunteer work, was denied.

She was also ordered to pay back $20,491 to her former employer.

In sentencing Morrison, Judge Jeff Lantz made it clear that the court was granting leniency in this case because of her terminal cancer prognosis.

Otherwise, said Lantz, the gravity of the offence, given the position of trust she was in and her choice of vulnerable victims, would have warranted a harsher sentence.

Morrison was employed with the Bank of Montreal in Summerside between 2002 and 2014 as a financial services co-ordinator and backup teller.

In December of 2013, BMO corporate security approached Summerside Police Services with a case it had been working on involving Morrison. Branch management had received complaints from a handful of customers regarding unauthorized withdrawals from their accounts.

In total, $20,491 was taken from 16 accounts via several transactions over about 10 months.

Morrison was charged following a police investigation and pleaded guilty to theft over $5,000 in January 2015.

Full Article & Source:
Bank teller sentenced for theft

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tonight on T.S. Radio: Marti Oakley's special guest is Carole Herman

After a three-year uphill battle with apathetic officials, files that mysteriously disappeared, several closures of her Aunt’s case with no action, and a pattern of stonewalling by state agencies created to protect patients from abuse and poor care, two things happened: The district administrator of the agency that licensed and monitored nursing homes was fired and Carole Herman, who fought the system for three years, founded FATE, Foundation Aiding The Elderly.

Carole protects the weak, fights the powerful, demands government do its job and doctor's to fulfill the Hippocratic Oath.

In October 2001 Carole was a Volunteer Spirit Award winner receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award for her work with FATE on behalf of the elderly and in February 2002 Carole was presented with a Resolution from the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors for "her dedication and care for the elderly of our community."

Today, FATE has affiliated organizations and colleagues fighting elderly patient's rights in Texas, Kansas, Ohio, Tennessee, Illinois, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Carolina. FATE has helped families all over the country.

Civil actions have been filed on behalf of patients and their families. And the movement to illuminate and reverse the all-too-common incidents of abuse such as neglect, psychiatric drugging and criminal assaults of the elderly is growing.

FATE fulfills a vital and increasing need of providing direct action advocacy and education that will ensure that care is received with the dignity that everyone deserves.

4:00 pm PST … 5:00 pm MST … 6:00 pm CST … 7:00 pm EST

LISTEN LIVE or listen to the archive later

Courts, Lawmakers Working on Protection for Weakest Citizens

Judges and lawyers responsible for Clark County’s flawed guardianship system acknowledge they have a problem.

They just say they’re powerless to fix it.

Guardianship Commissioner Jon Norheim and his supervisor, Family Court Judge Charles Hoskin, say they lack the money, staff and authority to prevent the financial exploitation of county wards detailed Sunday by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

But in Washoe County, a single judge is credited with making sweeping reforms that cleaned up a similarly troubled guardianship system.

And Nevada lawmakers are considering three reform bills that are opposed by professional private guardians but supported by advocates for the elderly and the incapacitated.

Becoming a private professional guardian in Nevada is as simple as showing a certification from the Center for Guardianship Certification, a not-for-profit organization based in Harrisburg, Pa.

The requirement is that hard to meet, the Government Accountability Office reported in 2010.

Undercover agents for the investigative agency used false background information on applications to the Center for Guardianship Certification. They were not required to give a Social Security number, nor was there any kind of background credit check, the agency reported.

The agents were certified after providing fake ID and passing the center’s written test.

Then, as now, Nevada doesn’t license or even do its own background checks on professional private guardians. If it did, it might have had reason to question the qualifications of Patience Bristol, who worked in the office of private guardian Jared Shafer while going through Chapter 13 bankruptcy from 2005 to 2010.

Bristol became a certified private guardian and opened her own office in 2012. She is now serving three to eight years in prison for stealing at least $200,000 in money and property from four of her wards. Prosecutors said much of the money went to cover major gambling losses.

In a curious foreshadowing of the Bristol case, the 2010 GAO report referred to an unidentified case manager in a Nevada county’s public guardian office who started her own guardianship business and was accused of stealing at least $200,000 from wards’ accounts to support a gambling problem. Details in that case — some three years before Bristol’s arrest — were not available from the GAO.

Hoskin and Norheim acknowledge Nevada’s guardianship system is especially vulnerable to exploitation by someone like Bristol, who worked for the county from 1998 until 2003.

Someone who knows the intricacies of the system “would have a much better idea of how to work the system than somebody who didn’t have that background,” Hoskin said.

Blatant “conversion” — theft — brought Bristol the attention of a bank investigator who blew the whistle.

Prosecuting a guardian who is exploiting a ward by overcharging for legitimate services can be far more tricky, said attorney Michael Olsen, who represents one of Bristol’s victims, Kristina Berger.

As in other cases examined by the Review-Journal, Berger’s guardians ignored the state’s minimal requirement of an annual report to the court showing spending from a ward’s estate. Neither Shafer nor Bristol ever made a report during Berger’s five-year guardianship, and the court never noticed.

“We do have some rules on the books that also need to be better enforced,” Olsen said. “I think we need to continue to develop the statutes.”

Olsen, who has been a practicing family and elder law attorney in Las Vegas for more than a decade, would like to see other changes to better protect the vulnerable, such as an increase in court monitoring. He would end the practice of letting guardians finance legal battles with the families of their wards with the ward’s own money.

Even without those reforms, Bristol’s prosecution could set a precedent, Olsen said.

“I would like to see (Las Vegas police) continue to be increasingly diligent in looking out for the seniors and the vulnerable who have been taken advantage of and prosecuting those cases criminally,” Olsen said. “I think that will have more of a deterrent effect than anything we can do on the civil side.”

Hoskin and Norheim say they need more money to adequately oversee the county’s guardianship system, including additional funding for the public guardian’s office, adding more compliance officers to monitor guardians and funding a volunteer program to represent wards in court.

“We only need private guardians because the public guardian’s office is inadequately funded,” Norheim said.

But one Nevada county has dramatically reduced exploitation by guardians without having more money to spend.

Washoe County District Judge David Hardy said he recognized the need to better protect wards in his early days as a private practice elder law attorney.

“The guardianship system itself contemplates that one person will be in charge of another person’s finances. When that happens, you’re going to have a small percentage of people who serve themselves,” Hardy said. “It’s easy to take from somebody who can’t defend himself or herself.”

Now Washoe County’s chief judge, Hardy worked with his colleagues to develop protocols giving wards more of a say in their treatment and narrowing the authority of guardians.

“In the old days, we used to appoint the guardian and then expect that the guardian would show up a year later with the accounting,” Hardy said. “Sometimes they would, sometimes they wouldn’t.”

With the help of a federal grant, the Washoe courts and the Reno-based National Center for State Courts recently completed a study that recommended reorganization and reallocation of resources, making it possible to hire a guardianship compliance officer to better monitor cases without additional funding, Hardy said.

Nevada advocates for the elderly credit Hardy’s reforms with greatly reducing complaints about his county’s guardianship system.

“It’s very easy for these cases to fall through the cracks unless we have the resources within the court to monitor those cases,” Hardy said. “In Washoe County, we have a thousand guardianship wards that are subject to orders, yet we focus every single week on new appointments. We grow this backlog of cases where there are living, vibrant people. And we focus our resource attention on the appointment, and too often neglect the appointment monitoring and supervision of cases.”

While critics of the guardianship system say much can be done at the county level, they also are pushing state lawmakers to adopt major reforms.

The Legislature is considering three bills pertaining to Nevada guardianships. Senate Bill 262, sponsored by Sen. Becky Harris, R-Las Vegas, would remove the requirement for a guardian to be a resident of the state. Assembly Bill 9, from the Legislative Committee on Health Care, would prohibit the courts from granting summary administration of a ward’s estate if that person is suffering from any form of dementia.

Assembly Bill 325, sponsored by Assemblyman Michael Sprinkle, D-Sparks, which would require annual licensing and regular audits of private professional guardians, appears to be facing the biggest fight — from the private professional guardians.

In a letter to lawmakers, Shelly Register, a private professional guardian in Sparks, warned that if AB325 passes, it is “likely to put private professional guardians out of business.”

But Barbara Buckley, executive director of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, is helping push the bill.

“We have regulatory bodies for things such as barbers,” Buckley said. “But not have a similar body when we’re talking about the lives of vulnerable seniors?”

Buckley, a former Assembly speaker, said the system totally lacks oversight of private guardians.

“We need someone looking into the practices of guardians,” Buckley added. “We have seniors who are being told where to live, how much of their own funds they will receive. We need proper oversight to make sure these people aren’t being exploited.”

Sally Ramm, an elder rights attorney with the state’s Elder Protective Services, said current court oversight isn’t enough. She argues that the need for licensing, monitoring and oversight is crucial as the industry expands along with the number of older Americans needing help.

Ramm echoed Hoskin and Hardy in saying courts need more investigative powers as well as the funding to put it to use.

Adding a licensing aspect to guardians would both enforce more restrictions on guardians and give people another avenue to file official complaints against guardians, she said.

Full Article & Source:
Courts, lawmakers working on protection for weakest citizens

Throw Back Thursday! 'Documentary: America's Secret Wealth Exchanges'

NASGA recently received the following comment to an older blog post:  As I was interviewing a probate lawyer, he suggested doing a 'court approved sale,' then described how it would be advertised out of state. It didn't make sense, but I asked him if this wasn't something we could decide later. He said 'yes,' but he had documents for me to sign (that he didn't want me to read first) that had a court approved sale as a limit to probate. I later learned that most such sales are a cash auction and only one person bids on the house (after all it was advertised out or state, so only the insider knows about it) and that person usually gets the house for way under market value. In bank foreclosures, the banks get made whole (by the taxpayers)through an agreement with congress, but the heirs of guardianship houses just lose. In every case of a court approved sale I came across, the house sold for way under market value. In every instance in which there was a market offer, it was shut out or turned down and the house sold in the court approved sale for much less.
The original post:

This documentary is the story of a woman who lost her husband then was plunged into the ugly world of greed, corruption, and legal abuse via unnecessary and predatory litigation. The widow was intentionally kept from mitigating damages to the Estate due to the insider activities between lawyers, and an asset management company....

Documentary:  America's Secret Wealth Exchanges

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Guardianship problems are widely reported but seldom fixed

Washoe County Family Court Judge David Hardy

Abuse by court-approved guardians is hardly new. Nor is it exclusive to Nevada or Clark County.

“This is a growing crisis across the country,” said Washoe County Chief Judge David Hardy, a former family law attorney credited with reforming the guardianship system in that county.

In Nevada and nationwide since the 1980s numerous studies and media investigations have laid bare systemic problems with conservatorships and guardianships.

In 1987, The Associated Press published a series titled Guardians of the Elderly: An Ailing System.

AP reporters from across the United States analyzed 2,200 guardianships from all 50 states, showing that guardianships were too easy to obtain and too hard to reverse. Overburdened and under­staffed court systems, meanwhile, rarely have the resources to properly monitor and protect vulnerable wards.

The same findings have been echoed in in-depth reports in recent years by regional newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Columbus Dispatch and the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune.

All of the reports, published years apart in different regions of the country, point to the same problems noted by The Associated Press.

But it’s not just the media that has taken notice of this ever-present and ever-growing problem.

In 2010, the Government Accountability Office, which performs research and investigations for Congress, released a damning national analysis of guardianship abuse.

The study included in-depth examinations of 20 cases across 15 states and the District of Columbia, finding that court-appointed guardians had stolen a cumulative $5.4 million from 158 in­capacitated wards. The study also noted that courts commonly:
  • ■ Failed to properly screen guardians and appointed guardians who had criminal convictions or significant financial problems.
  • ■ Failed to oversee the guardians after appointment, allowing guardians to abuse wards and take from their estates.
  • ■ Failed to communicate with federal agencies about abusive guardians, enabling them to continue their abuse.
Although the GAO’s 2010 report wouldn’t call the abuse “widespread,” it did identify hundreds of cases of abuse.

Subsequent GAO studies have said guardianship courts need better funding to oversee and protect the growing number of people who are in need of guardianship.

Since the report, guardianship reform has gained traction in some states.

Nationally, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., in late 2011 introduced the Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act, which would provide federal grants to help state courts do background checks and improve oversight. The bill has been endorsed by the National Guardianship Association, the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators, but has yet to see a Senate vote.

Full Article & Source:
Guardianship problems are widely reported but seldom fixed

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Escape was only option for an old soldier trapped in guardian system

APTOS, Calif. — Guadalupe Olvera sits in his tall green chair, blowing a familiar tune on his harmonica as a baseball game plays on his television. The harmony echoes off the walls of his daughter’s 1960s-era home, filling the air with an enticing melody.

Although slowed by age at 95, the World War II veteran regularly attends Veterans of Foreign Wars barbecues in Aptos, where he easily remembers the names and family details of those he meets. Life in the lush green hills near Santa Cruz is peaceful for Olvera and his family.

That wasn’t the case a few years ago, when he was isolated and alone, a prisoner in his Henderson home — a ward of Clark County, surrounded by people he didn’t know who were supposed to protect him, but who ended up with more than $420,000 of his money, most of his estate.

No longer a ward of any state, he’s settled in the home of the daughter who had to “kidnap” him when all else failed.

Olvera and his wife, Carmela, moved from California to Henderson to retire in 2002. They enjoyed warm weather and quickly became active members of their new Sun City Anthem community. Life was serene for the Olveras.

In 2007, Carmela took a step that would later prove costly. At a financial planner’s behest, she became her husband’s guardian.

The couple’s daughter, Rebecca Schultz, said Carmela already handled the couples’ finances, so Guadalupe never questioned the move.

But after Camela’s sudden death in fall 2009, he needed a new guardian. Schultz wasn’t an option because state law says a guardian must live in Nevada.

“I didn’t understand it,” Schultz said of the guardianship system. “I knew nothing about what that term meant, legally.”

Schultz called the office of the guardian­ship commissioner, who at any one time supervises 8,500 such cases for Clark County Family Court.

“I thought these people were going to help me,” Schultz said.

A court clerk told her she needed to see Jared Shafer, who for 24 years handled estate administration and guardianships as Clark County public administrator before starting Professional Fiduciary Services of Nevada, a guardianship company for hire, in 2003.

Shafer told Schultz he would act as a temporary guardian until conservator­ship could be transferred to California, which should have taken about six months. She assumed the transfer would go quickly with such an experienced guardian involved.

In a few months she realized she was wrong.

Rather than making an easy move to California, Olvera was stuck in Nevada while his family was forced to watch him lose everything.

“My father had a 3,000-square-foot house with a huge master bedroom and two guest bedrooms and they (his court-appointed guardians) wouldn’t let us stay there when we first visited,” Schultz said. Later visits were limited to a maximum of four days.

“That’s the first sign I saw that ‘OK, something’s wrong,’ ” she said.

A month after he was granted temporary guardianship, Shafer petitioned the court to make it permanent — a legal move that tethered Olvera and his money to Nevada.

Schultz and her father became increasingly suspicious of Shafer and the people he assigned to work with Olvera — people such as Shafer’s case manager, Patience Bristol, and his bookkeeper, Amy Deittrick.

Deittrick runs AViD Business Services, a bookkeeping company with ties to Shafer.

In February 2010, just three months after Shafer became guardian, Olvera’s Wells Fargo trust was billed $39,297.

More than $8,700 went to Bristol. AViD received $5,760 for charges ranging from $40 to $125 to pay a bill.

Shafer’s then-attorney, Elyse Tyrell, was paid $5,919.

Shafer’s bill alone was $15,000.

Only $3,080 went to KeepYou Company, a health care provider that took care of Olvera in his home.

A representative of the now-defunct company said it had no business relationship with Shafer beyond caring for Olvera.

Neither Shafer nor Deittrick responded to requests for comment for this article. Bristol could not be reached for comment, for good reason. After leaving Shafer’s office to start her own business she was convicted of stealing at least $200,000 from her wards and is now serving a prison term.

Still mourning the death of his wife, Olvera began to change, Schultz said. Once a cheerful joker, he became withdrawn — a shell of his former self, she said.

“He wasn’t happy being there with somebody that wasn’t his family,” Schultz said. “He had no friends there. No relatives. He was fearful.”

Watching costs mount and fearing her father was being exploited, she tried to have Shafer removed as guardian, hoping to eventually move Olvera to California.

That set in motion a long, costly legal battle that resulted in a warrant for her arrest.

Schultz learned quickly that Nevada law and Family Court favor the guardian. She couldn’t even go to court unless a Nevada resident would act as a co-petitioner. A friend from Las Vegas agreed to help, and they hired local attorney Brian Boggess.

Shafer responded by filing court papers claiming Schultz was an estranged daughter who had no contact with her parents after they left California, and thus should not be allowed to care for her father.

“They said that I had no relationship at all with my parents, which I found kind of strange since a year and a half before my mom’s death I had been there taking care of her when she broke her hip,” Schultz said. “I’m the one who taught my mother, at her late age, how to use a computer.”

Jon Norheim is an attorney appointed by the Clark County Commission to serve as guardianship commissioner. His clerk was the one who suggested Shafer to Schultz.

Although not a judge, Norheim’s decisions carry the weight of one. His ruling can be appealed to higher courts, but seldom are because of the cost. Attorneys familiar with the process say an appeal to District Court and the state Supreme Court would run about $50,000, too much for most estates to bear.

In response to Shafer’s claims, Schultz tried to show her relationship with her parents to the court. She provided a stack of handwritten letters that spoke of recent visits and dozens of emails between her and her mother.

Norheim wasn’t moved. He observed that Olvera enjoyed having Shafer as his guardian, and didn’t want to move to California.

But that’s not what the old soldier said.

In the one time he was allowed to speak in court, Olvera said, “I would like to live in California. I don’t need that man. I don’t need Jared.”

Boggess, meanwhile, argued that Shafer was improperly draining Olvera’s estate with excessive charges, and challenged the legality of Shafer’s appointment as guardian, citing state and federal laws that say guardians for military veterans are limited to having only five wards at any one time. Shafer had dozens of wards at the time of his appointment.

The same law also limits how much guardians can charge wards to 5 percent of the ward’s annual income. Boggess argued that Shafer’s billings far exceeded that limit.

Again, Norheim was unmoved. According to a hearing transcript, he called the law regarding veterans “nice and clear,” but not enough to justify “a major upsetting of the apple cart” for Shafer and other private guardians.

“All these private guardians have more than five wards,” Norheim said in court. “You couldn’t stay in business if you only had a couple of wards.”

Olvera would stay Shafer’s ward in Nevada, Norheim ruled later.

Boggess said he thought Norheim was more concerned about the effect on Shafer’s business than the law’s aim of assuring proper attention to the needs of veterans.

“That should be the last conceivable thing that a judge or commissioner thinks about — how it will upset somebody else’s business,” Boggess said.

In a recent interview, Norheim told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that statutes regarding veterans “could be read harmoniously, and not in conflict.”

And Olvera was inconsistent about wanting to return to California, he said.

“They totally ignored him,” Schultz said. “In my opinion, it’s a kangaroo court, at least concerning Shafer’s cases. Your attorneys can spend an enormous amount of time researching and filing and writing … and you don’t get anywhere.”

Days after the hearing, Olvera and his daughter took what they saw as their only option.

“The only way to solve the problem was to get my dad out of there,” Schultz said.

Olvera packed a few belongings and they drove to her home in Aptos.

“He left of his own volition,” Schultz said. “He wanted to go. He was afraid.”

Boggess said he didn’t tell Schultz to run, but he understands why she did.

“If I was in Becky’s shoes, and I could see that I wasn’t going to get a fair shake, I’m not sure I would have made a different choice,” Boggess said.

In subsequent Guardian Court hearings, Shafer’s lawyers accused Schultz of kidnapping her father.

No such charges were ever filed, but Norheim did issue a bench warrant for Schultz’s arrest after she and her father ignored his order to return for a court appearance.

“This was considered a kidnapping because he’s incapacitated. And (Schultz) took him in violation of Nevada law, and we can’t allow that to happen,” Norheim recently told the Review-Journal. “There has to be enforcement of the statutes.”

Although Olvera made it out of Nevada, his money did not. For years after Schultz and Olvera fled to California, Shafer continued an expensive court fight to maintain his status as the old soldier’s guardian.

Olvera paid for all of it — about $240,000 in legal costs over five years, all billed to the estate Shafer still controlled.

More than $130,000 of the charges went to lawyers representing Bristol and Shafer, Solomon Dwiggins and Freer, Clark & Trevithick in Henderson, and the Grunksy Law Firm in California.

Shafer himself charged $250 per hour to send emails or make phone calls related to the case. Often he and his lawyers would discuss matters over the telephone, with each billing Olvera’s account separately for their time, according to invoices obtained by the Review-Journal.

Clark County District Judge Charles Hoskin, who supervises the guardianship program, said he doesn’t see a problem with Shafer’s rates or billing practices.

“Given his background and experience, I think that’s a reasonable number,” Hoskin told the Review-Journal.

Lawyers fighting Shafer on Olvera’s behalf also were paid from his estate, but their bills amounted to just about $60,000.

All told, over about 3½ years Olvera’s estate had been tapped for at least $420,000, Boggess said in a U.S. District Court lawsuit filed last fall in Las Vegas.

In the lawsuit, Boggess accuses Shafer of inflating bills, submitting false charges and embezzlement.

“They were robbing me of my money,” Olvera said.

In Nevada, guardians are allowed to use their ward’s estate to pay for services and other fees, including attorney fees. But many involved in the guardianship world warn that the practice is easily abused by those in power.

“When people aren’t using their own money to fight the war, the disincentives aren’t as present,” said David Hardy, chief judge of District Court in Washoe County and an advocate for reforming the guardianship system. “Those numbers add up very, very quickly.”

In late 2012 the legal case was transferred to a Superior Court in California, where on Aug. 21, 2013, a judge terminated Olvera’s guardianship, restoring his ability to manage his own affairs. Shafer withdrew his accusations of kidnapping, and the bench warrant for Schultz was dismissed.

The judge in California did not respond to interview requests, but in court he cited Olvera’s improved condition thanks partly to being home with family.

“I never felt that my father needed a guardian,” Schultz said. “He just needed someone to assist him for his dis­abilities.”

Olvera still struggles with a bum knee, a sore shoulder and back, and permanent frostbite damage from his wartime service. But those injuries don’t slow him as much as they used to, thanks in part to electric chair lifts the Veterans Administration installed in Schultz’s two-story house. The VA also gave him a motorized scooter.

When the old soldier was a ward in Nevada, no one bothered to ask the VA to help improve his quality of life, Schultz said.

“None of my dad’s benefits were really utilized, because Shafer really didn’t care,” Schultz said. “I believe that if I’d left him there that he would be dead now.

“He’s healthier, heavier and happier than when he was down there,” Schultz said. “He’s in his comfort zone.”

Olvera and his son-in-law seldom miss a VFW post meeting, barbecue or parade. That VA-provided scooter gets good use.

No longer surrounded by strangers and left with no say over his own life, Olvera has no complaints.

Family and friends “treat me real fine,” he said. “They feed me anything I want … They know what I like.”

Full Article & Source:
Escape was only option for an old soldier trapped in guardian system

Monday, April 13, 2015

Clark County’s private guardians may protect — or just steal and abuse

Clark County's private guardians may protect - or just steal and abuse

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Update from NASGA Nevada Legislative Liaison, Rana Goodman

When The Vegas Voice began the series on guardianship we had no idea what a mess we were getting involved with. The lengths some of these people go to, in order to cheat the elderly out of every dollar they can, which in turn, robs them of the peace and tranquility they have saved their whole life to achieve for their declining years.

These guardians isolate them, decimate their finances, sell everything they own, and then shuttle them from one living facility to another as the need to pay lower and lower fees for their keep arises.

The wards who really do need guardianship are, for the most part left in a solitary existence with only the company of the other residents of the facility and a caregiver working there. No loving support from the family they have been stolen from, who many times don't even know where they are. Or, in several cases we have been working on, have been scared away by the guardian with threats of jail or harm to the parent if they interfere.

I was asked in an interview if "conspiracy" was too harsh of a word to attach to this and I had to answer that it was a perfect word. Why, because when you think about the guardians who, for years have openly been treating dozens of wards this way and no one has reported the abuse.

The hearing master accepts the word of one person, the guardian, that the potential ward, who the hearing master does not see or question, cannot live alone. He glances at a doctors form with boxes checked off but never questions the length of time the doctor feels this diagnosis might last. (we were told by a well known psychiatrist that dementia like symptoms may show one week and the person be perfectly normal the following week, especially if they are taking medication, as many seniors do.) This does not mean they cannot live alone. This hearing master quickly signs off and the request to sell everything and the ward's life is forever changed. YES, conspiracy is a perfect word!

The Vegas Voice: Guardianship, Part 3: NOW GET RESULTS!

by Dan Roberts
Her name is April Parks and she is the “poster child” why the Nevada guardianship laws must be changed.
Her M.O. as a private forprofit guardian is to do everything possible in separating family and squeezing every last dime from her acquired “ward.”

Although her actions are disgraceful, they are perfectly legal.

She must be stopped - since you, or your loved one might be her next victim.

Over the past few months, The Vegas Voice has reviewed and investigated this obscene (but very lucrative) guardianship industry. During this time, political editor Rana Goodman and yours truly have met with families torn apart by these private guardians - starting with Ms. Parks.

We spent countless hours reviewing petitions, observing court hearings and listening “off the record” to people inside this guardian cesspool. Most heart-wrenching was our meetings with those pleading and begging us to help them regain control of their lives and/or to be reunited with their families.

I have said it before and will continue to repeat it until the Nevada Legislature revises the guardianship statutes (NRS 159): Having a private guardian appointed for a senior is like selecting a child molester to run a day care center. It is financial exploitation and abuse, and private guardian April Parks is “Exhibit A.”

Full Article and Source:
The Vegas Voice:  Guardianship, Part 3:  NOW GET RESULTS

Rana Goodman and the Vegas Voice: How Do Private Guardians Find Their Wards?

My biggest question while getting ready to head for Carson City, and in addressing the guardianship seminars Dan and I have been asked to present is: How do private guardians find their wards?

We already knew several ways and had discussed them at our seminars; people giving out too much information at financial planning meetings, loose-lipped caregivers who tip off guardians, house cleaning staff, “well meaning” neighbors and so on.

Dan and I have searched for the common denominator by connecting some of these victims together.

Well, we found one, and it should have been clear as day. Perhaps it was, and that was why we didn’t see it before - it was there in plain sight.

We found families whose loved one landed in guardianship as a result of a simple “slip and fall” that placed them in a hospital. And it went downhill from there.

While they were in the hospital, a doctor would be asked to give the patient a cognitive evaluation; perhaps a nurse thought they needed extra care, and as outlined in Dan’s article, one particular guardian trolls the halls looking for wards.

We also discovered that the physician’s certificate form checked off by the doctor is readily available. More importantly, the doctor may, or may not be aware that the form is going to be used exclusively for a guardianship issue.

In speaking to one such doctor, we were told that his/her patient may need help, be it in home care or a guardian at the time of the evaluation, but a week or month from then, things may be back to normal.

The doctor assumed they would then be re-evaluated. No statement like that was on any chart we reviewed. All seemed to indicate permanent mental incapacitation.

Was it an error by omission? This kind of error has cost people we met a year, or more of their lives and a tremendous amount of money.

Full Article and Source:
The Vegas Voice:  Guardianship Part 3:  NOW GET RESULTS