Saturday, May 2, 2015

Was an 81-Year-Old Wife, Mother and Grandmother, Abducted by Her Own Daughter or Rescued from a Bad Situation?

Fourough Bakhtiar is wearing a magenta cardigan and a beige springtime hat in the Lorain County Justice Center in early April. Looking across the courtroom from behind big, thick-framed glasses, the 81-year-old wife, mother and grandmother is the center of her family's universe, though none of them, except her son-in-law Phillip Presutto, are here this morning. There's a good reason for that.

She is, however, joined by her attorney, Stephen Wolf, and her current legal guardian, Zachary Simonoff, who was appointed to manage Bakhtiar's affairs last year after much legal wrangling.

"I've probably had no other case that has been as contentious as this one and that has spurred as much litigation as this one," says Probate Court Judge James Walther.

He is not being hyperbolic. The fate of Bakhtiar's guardianship and sizable estate has been the gravitational center of a lengthy legal battle that's torn her family apart.

Since April 2013, for example, she has not lived with her husband, Mehdi Saghafi, in their Seven Hills home, and no one can agree whether that's a good thing for her or not. Saddled with signs of dementia, according to three physicians, and "vulnerable to exploitation," according to court records, even Fourough herself doesn't seem to be sure.

Five months ago, Judge Walther issued final orders to settle the legal war, the gist of which was this: Fourough, deemed incompetent by the court, was in need of a guardian. Her daughter, Jaleh Presutto, long estranged from the family, had brought her mother to live with her and her husband, Phillip Presutto, in Amherst and fought for the guardianship and initiated a divorce against Fourough's husband. The other family members, Fourough's husband and sons, fought back and claimed that Fourough was being corrupted, cajoled in her weak state to make decisions she wouldn't otherwise make, intentionally separated from her family.

But there's hardly an end in sight, and so up for debate this morning, as always in this probate case, is Fourough's money: Jaleh is seeking $20,000 from her mother's bank accounts to help her legal defense for allegedly abducting her mother. She was once Fourough's legal guardian; she's recently been indicted on five felony counts in Cuyahoga County for the elderly woman's kidnapping and abduction.

Full Article and Source:
Was an 81-Year-Old Wife, Mother and Grandmother, Abducted by Her Own Daughter or Rescued from a Bad Situation?

Viewers claim guardians abuse elderly's rights

2 Local 10 viewers say a professional guardian is abusing an elderly relative's rights, health and finances

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PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - In the last two weeks, Local 10 News investigative reporter Christina Vazquez has fielded calls into the hotline related to suspected guardian abuse. They are from people who claim a court appointed professional guardian is abusing an elderly relative’s rights, health and finances. It turns out this is a statewide problem, and now lawmakers in Tallahassee have responded.

This week, the Florida Senate passed a bill (HB 5) to begin overhauling how guardians are appointed and aimed at prohibiting abuse, exploitation and neglect of an elderly ward. The bill, if signed by Governor Rick Scott, would become law on July 1, 2015. 

"When someone has become incapacitated, they're in a vulnerable position, and a guardian can have considerable power over them," state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, said. "Although I have not directly come across abuse by guardians in my work, like my colleagues, I see the potential for abuse and hear the horror stories across the state who feel like their loved ones, mostly elderly parents, wound up isolated with everything taken from them and little they could do about it. The reforms in HB 5 will help improve how guardians are appointed, better protect the wishes and rights of the incapacitated person and clarify the responsibilities of guardians."

Miami physician Sam Sugar, who founded the advocacy group Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship, told Local 10 News in an interview earlier this month, "The mantra of the guardianship program is litigate, medicate and take the estate."

Sugar said courts are too willing to take undocumented testimony from lawyers whose main goal is to get an emergency temporary guardianship and take control of the elderly person's assets. 

"The minute that happens the game is over," Sugar said.

He stated the ultimate goal "is the diversion of inter-generational transfer of wealth from one generation to another into the pockets of this racket, and it is a racket."

Sugar said it could easily happen in any family. Typically, after an emergency guardianship hearing, a guardian known to the judge is appointed. 

"Ultimately the rape of estate," Sugar said.

Strongman sales, reverse mortgages, specialty referrals with appraisals that make no sense.  The elderly person's assets are sold undervalued to friends of the guardian, leaving those protected by guardianship penniless.  

Applicants for professional guardianship need to complete a 40 hour course with exam.  A high school diploma is also required and the guardian must have no felony convictions or bankruptcy filings.  After that, guardians are eligible to retain clients.

"These people hang out at hospitals, nursing homes ALFs, senior centers anywhere vulnerable elderly persons can find themselves," Sugar said. 

In some cases, Sugar said, the elderly are unaware that guardianship has been applied for. They receive a knock on the door noticing them that a court hearing is taking place, sometimes the very next day, leaving them less than 24 hours to prepare or find a lawyer.  Once placed in guardianship getting a loved one out of guardianship is difficult.

"It's harder than going to the moon," Sugar said. 

Sugar said guardianship is a $3.6 billion a year industry in Florida. In 2003, according to the Department of Elder Affairs, there were 23 certified for profit guardians in Florida. That number has grown to 460 this year so far. 

Full Article & Source:
Viewers claim guardians abuse elderly's rights

Upper East Side woman busted for allegedly stealing $340K from mom, 91

An Upper East Side woman has been busted for allegedly stealing $340,000 from her ailing 91-year-old mom.

Barbara Schwartz, 62, used money she pilfered from her mother's bank accounts for spa treatments, fancy clothes and booze, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Schwartz started helping herself to her mom's money in 2010, about two years after her mom had a stroke and she took control of her finances, court papers say.

The 91-year-old was in court in a wheelchair for her daughter’s arraignment on Tuesday.

“The defendant's mother spent a lifetime acquiring the assets needed to make her final years comfortable and free of the stress of financial worry, only to suffer a stroke and have her daughter allegedly steal the money for her own personal use," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Investigators found out the daughter had been siphoning the cash from one of her siblings, prosecutors said.

Schwartz, of E. 71st St., was ordered held on $50,000 bail.

Her lawyer, Christopher Wright, said she pleaded not guilty.

She faces up to 15 years behind bars if convicted.
Full Article & Source:
Upper East Side woman busted for allegedly stealing $340K from mom, 91

Man arrested for stealing nearly $16,000 from business that helps elderly or disabled

Thursday, April 30, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- A man is facing exploitation of an elderly or disabled person charges accused of writing personal checks to himself from checkbooks for a business meant to help the elderly or disabled.

Thaddeus Tilden Meyers, 55, was arrested on 5 counts of exploitation of an elderly person after a Georgia Bank and trust worker called the Richmond County Sheriff's Office in reference to a fraud on April 24 at 1:47 p.m., an incident report said.

The worker said Meyers is authorized to write checks for a company business called Support Solutions. However, Meyers is not authorized to write personal checks to himself. The Georgia Bank and Trust worker said Meyers wrote out, signed and cashed checks to himself, according to the incident report.

A Bank representative told investigators Meyers wrote a check for $6,800 off one account and more checks off of 9 other counts totaling $9,050.

Full Article & Source:
Man arrested for stealing nearly $16,000 from business that helps elderly or disabled

Friday, May 1, 2015

Pa. House Approves Bizzarro Bill to Help Prevent Elder Abuse

State Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, said the state House of Representatives today unanimously passed his legislation to provide extra protection against elder abuse committed by people acting with power of attorney.

“I am thankful that my colleagues realize the importance of protecting seniors battling dementia and other incapacitated Pennsylvanians who need someone to help with their finances in difficult times,” Bizzarro said. “Too often, cases of financial abuse go unreported, or those with power of attorney claim they didn’t know their actions could be considered criminal. Thanks to this legislation, we can give families peace of mind that extra steps have been taken to protect their loved ones’ finances.”

Bizzarro’s H.B. 299 would amend the state’s Power of Attorney Acknowledgment to indicate that failure to comply with the document’s directives could result in criminal charges against the person holding power of attorney. It would also allow area agencies on aging to access confidential records if the group believes a crime has been committed and can prove the elderly victim is mentally incapacitated.

In addition, the legislation was amended in the House Judiciary Committee to include a notice of the state Department of Aging’s elder abuse hotline (1-800-490-8505) to the person giving the power of attorney.

“Our state is home to two million senior citizens age 65 and older,” Bizzarro said. “It’s disgusting to think that there are people out there who would take advantage of our older Pennsylvanians. I am hopeful that this legislation will help bring awareness to this important issue and, ultimately, help cut down on elder abuse.”

Bizzarro introduced similar legislation last session, which passed the House. House Bill 299 now heads to the state Senate, where it awaits further review.

Full Article & Source:
Pa. House Approves Bizzarro Bill to Help Prevent Elder Abuse

Man gets 20 years for ripping off elderly in scam

A man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for his part in a scam in which thousands of dollars were stolen from the elderly.

Joseph Dada Akintoye, 34, of Nigeria, was convicted Wednesday in Cobb County Superior Court of 15 charges, including racketeering, money laundering, theft by taking, theft by deception and exploitation of elder persons.

An international organization Akintoye belonged to called elderly people or contacted them online and convinced them to wire money into accounts he controlled, Kim Isaza, the spokeswoman for Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds, said in an emailed statement.

According to that statement, some victims were led to believe that the person calling them was a grandchild who was in jail in another state and needed the money for bail. Another victim was contacted by a man on and led to think she was helping with a foreign financial deal.

Three victims, none of them in Georgia, wired nearly $50,000 into an account held by a Marietta woman who was an associate of Akintoye, Isaza said. He told her how to launder the funds and how to shift them between various accounts.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars from other unidentified victims moved through the accounts of the Marietta woman, Isaza said. Some of the money was sent to Akintoye’s own account in Jacksonville, Fla., while most of it went to Nigeria and Malaysia.

“This is absolutely racketeering,” Cobb Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs said before sentencing Akintoye. “He’s one of the kingpins, and he should pay. He’s come in this country, and he’s used this country. He’s contributed nothing.”

The last three years of Akintoye’s sentence will be suspended if he pays $35,000 restitution within one year. He was also fined $50,000.

Full Article & Source:
Man gets 20 years for ripping off elderly in scam

State Looking Into New Funding Opportunities for Elder Abuse Protection

The decision to enter into a guardianship contract for an elderly family member is a heavy one, no matter the circumstances. Professional guardianship programs — wherein an attorney, rather than a family member, is appointed as guardian — are common across the U.S.

An elderly person can land in a courtroom, be deemed “incompetent” and have all decision-making capacity handed off to a third party. What happens then is either beneficial to the person or not; it's often hard to distinguish between the two.

This week, we profiled one highly contentious guardianship case in Lorain County — one which has since spawned a divorce case and a criminal case in Cuyahoga County.

Gov. John Kasich appointed a working group last year to determine how best to invest new money into unifying adult protective services across the state. That includes identifying ways of protecting the state's elderly residents from all manner of abuse — physical, psychological, financial, etc. Ohio’s 88 counties each approach guardianship and elder abuse response differently.

The state will pay $2.6 million this year to create minimum standards and training requirements for adult protective services. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will target its requirements to legal guardians and will implement a central hotline and data-collection system for reports.

At the same time, the Ohio Department of Aging is looking across the next few years at making Ohio a "dementia-capable state," one that can "assist individuals who are suffering from dementia, losing their ability to effectively communicate and are unable to provide care for themselves; and provide resources to the family caregivers who are responsible for caring for their loved ones." Dementia, as diagnosed by third-party physicians of record, is often the first step to a judgment entry that an elderly person is in need of a guardian. With or without a guardian in place, however, as the report states, those diagnosed with symptoms of dementia remain susceptible to an array of abuses. Read the full report here.

Paul Greenwood, head of elder abuse protection unit in San Diego district attorney’s office, told the Columbus Dispatch last month: “Crooks and con artists are becoming more creative and daring in their efforts to deplete the life savings of our senior citizens. It is therefore time for us to go on the offensive in identifying, investigating and prosecuting these suspects.”

That newspaper has led something of a rallying cry for the state to raise awareness of these issues. From a recent letter to the editor praising the paper's coverage:

[O]verwhelmed adult-protective-service agencies save lives every day through thoughtful investigation and intervention. Expanding their capacity may be long overdue, yet even this is not enough.

Ohio must also prevent elder abuse before it begins. Curtailing elder financial exploitation is a compelling place to start. Exploitation often accompanies other forms of abuse, yet is the type most likely to involve interaction with an institution. Thus, banks are well-positioned to identify vulnerable elders and document suspected abuse.

While reports of elder abuse across Ohio have fallen from 15,292 in 2010 to 13,608 in 2014, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, it's unclear what percentage comprises guardianship abuse in the specific sense.

Full Article & Source:
State Looking Into New Funding Opportunities for Elder Abuse Protection

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Florida Advocate Teresa Tozzo-Lyles Interviewed About Guardianship Abuse

Advocate Teresa Tozzo-Lyles is interviewed by WUFT-TV, describing the primary tactics of court-appointed for profit guardianships: Isolate, Medicate, Take The Estate. Tozzo-Lyles discusses with reporter Richard Gomez about the hoped-for changes in Guardianship, with today's (April 28, 2015) passage by the Florida Senate of HB5. This legislation changes the way guardians are appointed and explicitly prohibits the abuse, exploitation or neglect of an elderly ward.

WUFT-TV interviews Teresa Tozzo-Lyles about abusive guardianship

See Also:
Carmen Tozzo Hernandez, Florida Victim
Before guardianship
During Guardianship

I-Team Update: Fixing a Broken System

If you need a guardian, is the system working for you?

Experts say Missouri needs to do more to protect wards, lessen workloads and give families more peace of mind

"Clearly, something is broken in Missouri," Sharon Bock said.

Bock is the clerk and comptroller for Palm Beach County, Florida. Last year, she led the charge to reform the guardianship system in her home state.

"Missouri has the responsibility to make sure that the statutes are clear, that all of the statutes are designed to be in the best interest of this person who has lost their ability to either have control of their body or control of their money," Bock said.

After profiling the guardianship case of Pauline Williams of Sikeston in February, I reached out to the state lawmakers serving Scott County to ask them if the state's guardianship system needs to be fixed.

"It just appears to be that that's something that's been overlooked,” admits State Representative Holly Rehder.

Full Article, Video and Source:
I-Team Update:  Fixing a Broken System

See Also:
I-Team:  Broken System

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Petition: Demand a Federal Investigation into Abuses in Probate Guardianship in America

All around America, innocent vulnerable citizens and their families are abused and exploited by a nefarious probate court system which destroys individuals and families. While the intent of guardianship laws is to protect such individuals, the court approved greed-based professional guardianship industry perverts the laws and enslaves families as it diverts the valid intergenerational transfer of America's wealth into their own pockets.

Only a federal probe similar to operation Graylord can root out the perpetrators of this demonic cancer in America perpetrated in probate courts across the country.

Trillions of dollars passed through probate court every year and every American with assets can expect to be involved in probate court at some time in their lives.

Please support this petition and

SIGN the petition

"Marked for Destruction"

A Shockingly Powerful Story; A True Crime Exposed.
by Officer John Caravella /retired

What Adele Fraulen might have thought to be nothing more than a meaningless bad dream one night in 1935 would actually come true. At age 79 she would find herself living a nightmare -- a struggle for her life, simply because she innocently trusted the wrong professionals to help with her portion of a Million Dollar inheritance; they would steal her very existence. Her neighbors, Chris and Patricia Zurillo, would realize that Adele's life was going terribly wrong and dedicate themselves to freeing her from captivity.

“Marked For Destruction” is a rare book that exposes an ever-expanding crime against our elderly.


From the Author:


Imminent danger to the alleged incapacitated person, who is criminally and civilly innocent, begins with a court ordered pre-trial examination by an examining committee.

Court ordered examinations, and examining committee members, are controlled by statute. If indicated, the committee's examination must be comprehensive and include:

1. A physical examination;
2. A mental health examination;
3. A functional assessment;
4. A diagnosis, prognosis, and recommended course of treatment.

Read the Essay: Freedom From Interference

Guardianship Bills Racing The Clock

As lawmakers enter the final days of the regular legislative session, they have not resolved proposals aimed at shielding older Floridians from predatory private guardians who take control of the seniors' assets.

Nonetheless, Sen. Nancy Detert, a Venice Republican and sponsor of one of the guardianship bills (SB 1226), calls it her top priority of the session. Her bill would charge the state Department of Elder Affairs with certifying, overseeing and disciplining professional guardians who abuse their trust. It would also create a registry of professional guardians in each judicial circuit.
The bill was sparked, Detert said, by a series in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, which concluded that "monitoring elders and tapping their assets is a growth business: In 2003, there were 23 registered professional guardians in Florida, according to the (Department of Elder Affairs). Today there are more than 440 - an increase greater than 1,800 percent in 11 years."

Currently, Detert said, the Department of Elder Affairs oversees the state's 51 public guardians, who are assigned to indigent seniors, but there is little to stop unprincipled professional guardians from charging steep rates for services and running through wards' assets.

"This is a totally unregulated industry," Detert said on the Senate floor Monday afternoon, as her bill was readied for a final vote as soon as Tuesday.

The senator said she's heard from constituents about private guardians who drain "mostly wealthy elderly folks" of their life savings --- even in cases where the seniors had children who looked after them before the guardians entered the picture.

For instance, Detert said, one woman ferried her mother on errands and helped with bills until a dispute between the siblings ended with a private guardian in charge of the mother's affairs.

"All the things the daughter did for her mom --- took care of the mail, paid the bills --- now the guardian's doing it, and they charge $100 an hour to open your mail, make your doctor's appointment," Detert said. "And even when the relatives visit, they have to pay $100 an hour for the guardian to sit there while they visit the mom."

Senate committee hearings on the bill were full of similar tales. But the House version (HB 1225), sponsored by Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, has been stuck in the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee for more than a month after getting unanimous approval from the Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee.

Rep. Matt Hudson, a Naples Republican and chairman of the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, said that's because the cost of the bill was expected to be more than three times as much as it is now.

"It was not a matter of policy," Hudson said. "It was simply a matter of fiscal resources. …. Frankly, I just didn't have the money to be able to do it."

In mid-March, Detert said, the Department of Elder Affairs had estimated the cost of her bill at $3 million for 40 full-time employees. But last week, she succeeded in amending the measure to provide six full-time positions and $821,670 in recurring general revenue funds for Fiscal Year 2015-2016.
Hudson praised Detert and Ahern for working with the Department of Elder Affairs to bring the cost down.

"(But) here we are, a handful of days before the end of session, and while I appreciate that they've worked hard to get a bill in good position that way, the reality is, we stopped meeting as a committee weeks ago," Hudson said.

But Ahern said he hasn't given up.

"The senator did her job…the governor's on board, so I'm looking for away to --- maybe through the (House) appropriations chair, Richard Corcoran, if he can find a million dollars somewhere, then we could possibly attach it to a bill of similar type,'' Ahern said.

That could be a bill (HB 5), which passed the House last week and could come up for a Senate vote Tuesday.

The bill would require advance notice before hearings on the appointment of emergency temporary guardians. It would also allow the mediation of guardianship disputes among family members and require the reporting of incidents of abuse, neglect and exploitation of wards by guardians.

But the Senate added an amendment that was not in the version that passed the House. Sen. Tom Lee, a Brandon Republican who proposed the amendment, said in an email that it "preserves the good work of an organization in my district," the Sun City Center. "It is crafted to allow certain not-for-profits to provide power of attorney services free of charge to those residing in senior communities. As safeguards, criminal history background checks and credit history checks will be required of all volunteers who interact with clients. The service is strictly voluntary and seeks to help seniors stay independent longer."

House sponsor Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, said she and Lee had collaborated on the amendment and that she was satisfied with the safeguard it provides.

"Those are our vulnerable citizens," Passidomo said. "They're being abused, financially and in many other ways, unfortunately, by some bad actors. And we need to clamp down on them --- particularly making criminal penalties on those that will exploit our elderly."

Full Article & Source:
Guardianship Bills Racing The Clock

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Editorial: County Guardianship System a Disgrace

To the editor:

I am in a state of shock after reading the article on Clark County’s private guardianship system (“The power to help, the power to abuse,” April 12 Review-Journal). I loved Nevada for its sunshine and care of elders. I bragged about this state for retirees. Little did I know what was going on behind closed doors. Disgusting.To think so many people here have known about the guardianship system for years and kept their mouths shut about the corruption. It took one woman to bring this all to the front and demand it be told, and finally the newspaper brought it out, too.

To find not even background checks are required to become a guardian? How crazy can you get to let this take place?  I thought I was safe and tried to prepare with a will and a trust to keep my children in the know, only to find out none of this would be any good because they live out of state.

I am 82 years old, on oxygen and could trip and fall, and land myself in the hospital, then find myself taken over by a guardian, and there would be nothing my children could do to control it. The county-appointed guardian could spend my money and sell my house. This keeps sounding crazier by the minute.

Now the county gives garbage excuses — they didn’t know and complaints weren’t followed up on. Did county officials not have the guts to suggest we might change the laws? Was there payoff to the people who helped to implement this? The only suggestion I could give to seniors is to move out of state.


Letters:  County Guardianship System a Disgrace

Iowa man found not guilty of sexually assaulting his wife with dementia

GARNER, Iowa — A jury found a 78-year-old man not guilty of sexually abusing his wife with dementia. Henry Rayhons was charged with sexual assault after staff members at a nursing home told him she was cognitively unable to consent to sex. His wife had a shared room with another patient at the nursing home, who reported hearing noises that made her uncomfortable.

Rayhons testified that his wife, Donna Rayhons, continued to desire and even initiate sex.

He said on the night on which he was accused of sexual assault that he actually just kissed and held hands with her behind the curtain drawn around her bed.

The felony sexual assault charge could have sent him to prison for up to 10 years.

150418103545-smerconish-husband-sex-abuse-wife-dementia-tablet-largeThe couple met while singing in the church choir and married in 2007. During the trial, there appeared to be tension between Rayhons and two of his wife’s grown daughters, who decided to move her to the nursing home.

Mr. Rayhons was reportedly told to limit his outings with is wife and was allowed to take his wife to church on Sunday.

Full Article, Video & Source:
Iowa man found not guilty of sexually assaulting his wife with dementia

As Cognition Slips, Financial Skills Are Often the First to Go

Francis, 84, with his daughter-in-law, Helen Clark
WHEN Helen Clark brought her father-in-law, then 83, to the doctor last year, she knew his mind was slowing, but a mental status exam confirmed it. He knew the year, where he lived and the name of the president. But when the doctor asked him to count backward from 100, subtracting seven from each number — 100, 93, 86, 79 — a look of confusion washed over his face.

Studies show that the ability to perform simple math problems, as well as handling financial matters, are typically one of the first set of skills to decline in diseases of the mind, like Alzheimer’s, and Ms. Clark’s father-in-law, who suffered from mild dementia, was no exception. Research has also shown that even cognitively normal people may reach a point where financial decision-making becomes more challenging.

“A person can appear to have their wherewithal cognitively, but not have the ability to understand money in the same way anymore,” said Ms. Clark, a retired registered nurse and family therapist in Cottonwood, Calif.

The issue looms large, particularly as the number of older people continues to rapidly expand: There are 44.7 million people 65 and older, representing 14 percent of the population, according to the most recent census data, but, within 10 years, they will swell to an estimated 66 million. This group collectively holds trillions of dollars in wealth, but are often left to manage their own finances, even as they become increasingly vulnerable. About half of adults in their 80s either have dementia, or at least some cognitive impairment without dementia, researchers said.

“If you can detect emerging financial impairment early, you can also step in early and protect the person,” said Daniel Marson, a neuropsychologist and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “It may be if you step in two months from now, they won’t be in a position to make a poor decision or be exploited a year from now.”

For Ms. Clark’s father-in-law, Francis Taylor, the intervention came too late. At 80 years old, he married a woman 17 years his junior, who, over their three-year union, according to the family, cashed $40,000 in blank checks sent by his credit-card issuer and emptied the contents of his $123,000 annuity, leaving him with little more than a giant tax bill.

Mr. Taylor, a former diesel mechanic and Korean War veteran, gave his wife permission to make two annuity withdrawals over the phone. But his wife, who couldn’t be reached for comment, made 20 more withdrawals on her own by using her husband’s Social Security number and other identifying information, and signing papers to direct money into a joint account, according to documents provided by Ms. Clark. After an internal investigation, MetLife, the annuity provider, concluded that it had followed proper procedures.

Preventing these situations is often difficult. Knowing exactly when to get involved can be fraught, whether you are an adult child or a trusted adviser. There are a series of early warning signs of financial decline, which Dr. Marson identified in a recent study, which is being submitted for publication and was funded by the National Endowment for Financial Education and the National Institute on Aging.
The signs, while perhaps not surprising, are subtle, making them easy to miss: It may become more difficult for people to identify the risks in a particular investment, and they may focus too much on the benefits. Completing various tasks on a financial to-do list may start to take longer, such as preparing bills for the mail. Everyday math may become more laborious or prone to errors, whether that’s figuring out a tip in a restaurant or doing a calculation that requires two steps. Financial concepts, like medical deductibles and minimum balances required in savings accounts, may also become harder to grasp. Naturally, these behaviors should represent a significant change: If a person was never adept with personal finances, this won’t serve as much of an indicator.

Dr. Marson said he identified these warnings signs as part of a study of 138 older adults over time who were initially deemed “cognitively normal” by a panel of four doctors when they joined the study (and after at least one annual follow-up visit). Participants were also timed as they completed financial tasks in a lab. Twenty-three members of the group later received a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment, but when the researchers went back and looked at the original results of the financial capacity test — when the group members were deemed cognitively normal — there were already subtle signs of slowing and financial decline.

“The group that would later decline already had some emerging signs,” Dr. Marson said, though they weren’t glaring.

While many people continue to handle their finances with ease well into their later years, even people with healthy brains tend to experience cognitive decline. According to one study, which analyzed participants’ propensity to make financial mistakes, a person’s financial decision-making ability peaks at age 53, or, more generally, in their 50s. This is the sweet spot, the paper said, because they have substantial amounts of experience but they have had only modest declines in their ability to solve new problems.

There is a general tendency for our ability to solve new problems — known as fluid intelligence — to slowly decline over time, starting as early as age 20. But this is at least partly offset by our growing experiences and wisdom, known as crystallized intelligence.

David Laibson, an economics professor at Harvard and co-author of the research, said he believed that crystallized intelligence tended to plateau when people reached their 70s. That plateau, accompanied with declining fluid intelligence, might explain why older consumers made more financial mistakes than middle-age ones in his study.

“At that point, vulnerability increases,” Professor Laibson said. “Our nation’s wealth is disproportionately held by older adults, and they are exactly the group, particularly as they reach their 80s and 90s, that are most vulnerable. But our system has the fewest protections for those people.” (Continue reading)

Full Article & Source:
As Cognition Slips, Financial Skills Are Often the First to Go

Monday, April 27, 2015 Limited Conservatorships: Systemic Denial to Access to Justice

The Disability and Abuse Project has conducted an audit of limited conservatorship procedures and cases processed through the Probate Court in Los Angeles County.  What we have found is very disturbing.  Los Angeles may be symptomatic of a much larger problem of personal and constitutional rights violations occurring throughout California, indeed, throughout the nation.

About 30 years ago, the California Legislature established a new system of protection for adults with developmental disabilities.  We call it the "Limited Conservatorship System."  It was a new form of conservatorship (adult guardianship) that provides a delicate balance between protecting vulnerable adults from harm and granting such adults as many rights as possible.  A blend of semi-independence and semi-protection was the goal.  Hence the term "limited" conservatorship since the conservator only receives limited powers over the conservatee.

The procedure for establishing limited conservatorships is supposed to have a built-in set of checks and balances to make sure that a conservatorship is needed, that the right person becomes the conservator, and that the conservatee retains as many rights as possible.  Alternatives to conservatorship, including less intrusive forms of supportive decisionmaking, should be explored. 

There should be a screening out of potentially bad conservators.  A court investigator should interview all parties to the case and close relatives.  A lawyer appointed for the conservatee should do an independent investigation and defend the rights of the conservatee from erosion.  The Regional Center should do its own assessment and should make recommendations to the court. This all sounds so good on paper.  But what we found are practices that do not match this ideal scenario.  We saw negligence, indifference, and systematic violations of rights.  Courts are not narrowly tailoring their orders so that proposed conservatees retain as many rights as possible. We have conducted extensive research, sponsored conferences, and published reports.   We are "whistle blowers" who hope to shake up the status quo.

Full Article and Source:
Disability and
READ: Limited Conservatorships: Systematic Denial to Access to Justice

See Also:
Lanternman Developmental Disabilities Services Act, California Welfare and Institutions Code Statement of Rights
Searching Court Records
Probate Investigator Deficit

Harris County Texas Judge Guy Herman's Testimony at the Senate Committee on State Affairs on SB1876

Judge Guy Herman Insulting Battered Families of Judicial Abuse

Families gather to reform state's adult guardian system

LONGWOOD — For two days, punctuated by tears and cautious optimism, some 20 people gathered here last week at a small video production studio to share their stories about Florida’s adult guardianship system, while legislators in Tallahassee consider bills that might improve that experience for others.

“I’ve been calling this the first and only guardianship victim summit,” Sam Sugar, the Aventura physician who convened them said. “But after today, we’re no longer victims. The next time we get together, we will be guardianship advocates.”

Sugar, who launched a nonprofit organization called Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship in response to his mother-in-law’s case, noted that April 15 marked the fifth anniversary of his first contact with the system. His mother-in-law has died, he said, but the costly legal fight over her assets continues.

“Five years ago, my disaster began when an attorney went in front of a judge and lied,” he said. “Nobody ever had to prove them; nobody had a hearing about them — and yet those 30 seconds of lies have created five years of hell for my family.”

The guardianship system is designed to protect frail and incapacitated elders from both financial and physical abuse, and Florida’s statute is considered one of the best in the nation.

But the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s “The Kindness of Strangers: Inside Elder Guardianship in Florida” series last December showed how easily an elder’s rights can be taken away and given to somebody else, for life, if the court finds this step in the best interest of someone lacking capacity to make decisions.

Since the series appeared, a trio of reform bills were introduced in the Legislature, with many of the group gathered here testifying in their support.  (Continue reading)

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Families gather to reform state's adult guardian system

FOX 4 investigation yields bill seeking to protect elderly | Dallas-Fort Worth News, Weather, Sports
Guardians and attorneys who represent some of Texas' most vulnerable people may be required to start disclosing exactly what they are charging for their services.

A bill before the legislature involves stepping up financial accountability.

“I feel like I am not in America,” Michael Kidd said back in 2009, after the state determined that he and his wife could no longer care for themselves. “I can't believe that I have been high jacked off the street, virtually…imprisoned.”

The state placed Kidd and his wife in a nursing home against their will and took over all of their finances.

It was only after FOX 4 stepped in and aired their story that a judge allowed them to return home, but by then, their finances had been turned upside down.

In Austin on Monday, there were lots of similar stories, and now a bill has been proposed that would require more financial accountability for guardians.

“We have seen attorneys' fees in cases in Tarrant County, Dallas County, Travis County and Bexar Counties in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to represent an elderly person who is trapped,” said Deb Valdez, a guardianship reform advocate.

Virginia Pritchett also testified about her good friend, Denise Tighe, who was also placed in a nursing home against her will 20 miles away from her home.

Pritchett said Tighe had a sizable savings account. She later died with no friends or family with her.

“This guardianship law may have been passed to help people, but instead, it enables the greed to take full financial advantage of the elderly,” said Pritchett. “My friend was never able to spend a day in her home again, simply because she had lots of money.”

State Sen. Judith Zaffarini's bill, Senate Bill 1369, would require attorney and guardians to file a report with the name of each person appointed by the court, the hours they worked and the compensation paid, and those reports would have to be available online and physically at the court.  

The senator says the current system requires reporting, but only 40 percent comply.

A Travis County judge testified Monday that he has grave concerns about the bill.

“This, I'm concerned about because it is putting a great burden upon the judge when I don't have enough staff in my office to do it,” said Judge Guy Herman of Travis County Probate Court.

Monday was the first reading of the bill, so it is still early in the legislative process.

Sadly, Michael and Jean Kidd both passed away after FOX 4's stories aired, but they were back in their home, and that is where they wanted to be.

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FOX 4 investigation yields bill seeking to protect elderly

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Editorial: Guarding the Guardians

Clark County commissioners were in rare form Tuesday, expressing shock — Shock! — and outrage — Outrage! — over abuses carried out by court-appointed guardians. Last week, the Review-Journal reported the miserable oversight failures of the system that’s supposed to protect the estates of thousands of elderly and mentally incapacitated residents, and in their first meeting since those reports, commissioners were eager to blame anyone but themselves.

“Why has this been a best-kept secret?” Commissioner Lawrence Weekly asked.

It hasn’t. Those who’ve seen loved ones ripped off and who’ve struggled to save them from court-appointed cons have been hollering for help for years. Commissioner Tom Collins admitted as much in Tuesday’s meeting, when he recalled how he personally intervened on behalf of a friend whose grandmother couldn’t be freed from a guardianship. He said he called and called, but it took him seven months to get the job done.

“It was because of my title of county commissioner,” Mr. Collins said at the meeting. “If I was just Joe Blow out there at sea, I would not have gotten the time of day.”

Exactly. So why didn’t Mr. Collins do anything about it? Why didn’t he use the power of his office to hold the entire system accountable? Why did he wait until Tuesday to suggest firing Guardianship Commissioner Jon Norheim?

The District Court operation has allowed people to be stripped of hundreds of thousands of dollars while not enforcing guardian reporting requirements and ignoring wards and their families.

Commissioners have vowed to get the travesty straightened out. And the Legislature is considering reforms to improve guardian credentials and allow involvement of out-of-state relatives. Hallelujah.

But better oversight of guardians starts with the elected stewards entrusted by voters. It starts with the County Commission.

Editorial:  Guarding the Guardians

Here's How The Great $41 Trillion Generational Wealth Transfer Is Intercepted By Probate Pirates

Carmen Tozzo Hernandez
NEW YORK (MainStreet) — It used to be that Theresa Lyons bartered with the elderly relatives in her family.

“My aging mother and her sister were helping me pay the rent, gas and electricity bills and I would take them out to eat and drive them around to where they needed to go,” said the single mother of three children.

That was until 2011 when Blanca Tozzo, Lyons’s aunt, passed away and her mother, Carmen Hernandez Tozzo, was placed in a retirement home in Florida once the Department of Children and Families (DCF) stepped in.

“I have no access to my mom's finances,” Lyons told MainStreet. “The only way I can get any money is through a subpoena and blessings from the probate judge.”

Once Tozzo became a ward of the state under a professional guardian, Lyons said most of her mother's $100,000 in retirement savings was drained.

Carmen Tozzo Hernandez
“The guardian isolated and drugged my mom, placed her in a lock down area with mentally ill and psychotic patients where she suffered dozens of falls, cuts, bruises and was almost killed by one of the male residents,” said Lyons, who is in her 50s. “When I complained, my visitation was taken away.”

Lyons’s mother is among the senior citizens losing some $36.48 billion each year to elder financial abuse, according to a True Link study called Friendly Grandparent Syndrome.

“These numbers indicate how the guardianship industry destroys the legitimate inter-generational transfer of wealth and in the process irreparably damages entire generations of innocent families,” said Dr. Sam Sugar, founder of the Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship (AAAPG) in Miami.

That’s 12 times more than the previously reported $2.9 billion, because elders are ashamed and humiliated and in some cases drugged while residing in a retirement home.

“They often refuse to report this crime,” said Jack Halpern, CEO of My Elder Advocate, a franchise that works with families to solve elder care-related crises. “Elder financial abuse is probably the most unreported crime in the country.”

Some $16.9 billion of these losses a year comes from deceptive but technically legal tactics designed specifically to take advantage of older Americans, according to the 2015 True Link Report on Financial Elder Abuse. “This crime is shielded from public view because the criminal is most often a lawyer in probate court,” said Kristi Hood, author of the book Probate Pirates (JKH Publishing, 2015). “The probate pirate attorney either directly or indirectly finds a way to pick the pockets of the elderly ward of the state, taking money that should be used to care for the person or charging their adult children exorbitant legal fees for help.”

Uncannily similar to organized crime defined in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970 (RICO), probate piracy can involve the involuntary redistribution of assets, which is also known as property poaching, with the elderly person becoming the enterprise that is defrauded.

"Unscrupulous charities, probate courts, home repair scammers, retirement homes, neighbors and even distant family members know that a friendly senior with cognitive issues is a potential gold mine,” said Kai Stinchcombe, CEO and founder of True Link.

Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers are reportedly expected to be the recipients of some $41 trillion from their World War 2 generation parents as they pass away.  (Continue reading)

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Here's How The Great $41 Trillion Generational Wealth Transfer Is Intercepted By Probate Pirates

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NASGA:  Carmen Tozzo Hernandez, Florida Victim

Steve Miller: There are No Criminal Penalties for Guardians Who Steal From Wards of the Court

The Lieutenant on Tuesday, April 21, told the Board of Commissioners that there are NO criminal penalties for the for-hire guardians who exploit their elderly or disabled wards.

The NRS Chapter 159 Guardianship statutes he cited detail only what and how guardians are to operate. What these statutes purposefully do not include, as most NRS statutes do, is any description of penalties, fines, or reference to how the guardians can be prosecuted or made accountable criminally for not following the statutes.

That's the catch. NRS 159 does say the "court" can have the guardian "cited," but that's it.

As the Lieutenant said to the commissioners, it's all in the "courts jurisdiction," and he is correct. However, the Family Court is obviously controlled by several crooked guardians, and people like Judges Charles Hostin, William Voy, Art Ritchie, and Commissioner Jon Norhiem have proven to ALWAYS side with the guardians and their attorneys, and won't punish them under ANY circumstances.

Also, to discourage family members from taking their court appointed guardian to court, NRS 159 allows the judges or Norheim to force the family to pay the guardian's exorbitant attorney fees if the judge or commissioner rules that the family's complaint had no merit.

How was NRS 159 enacted without penalties?

Jared Shafer owns hundreds of A-frame political advertising signs placed on vacant lots during elections. As an ex-politician, I can personally attest that you MUST have these signs in order to be elected to the assembly or state senate in Nevada. Without them, you'll likely lose the election. 

Nevada state assemblyman and senators need these signs to stay in office, and for this reason many have voted to weaken laws that could have put people like Jared Shafer behind bars many times over.

It's as though Shafer and his cronies have found a way to commit the perfect crime.

~Steve Miller

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Police Lt. Explains How Family Court Steals From Wards

NY nursing home inspectors lax about bedsores, other care problems, report says

Syracuse, N.Y. -- Even though nearly one in 10 New York nursing home residents suffer from bedsores, the state rarely holds nursing homes accountable for failing to treat and prevent these largely avoidable skin wounds, according to a report.

The report by the Long Term Care Community Coalition says the state Health Department cites nursing homes less than 100 times per year for inadequate bedsore care. More than 9,000 N.Y. nursing home residents have unhealed bedsores, according to the report.

The Health Department had no immediate comment on the report.

Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, are wounds caused by unrelieved pressure on the skin. They often develop on the elbow, heel, hip, shoulder, back and back of the head. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says bedsores are serious medical conditions and a key measure of the quality of nursing home care.

The Manhattan-based consumer advocacy group's report found that when the state does cite nursing homes for poor bedsore care, its inspectors rarely find there was any harm to residents. Nursing homes are not likely to be fined or face other repercussions when inspectors determine a problem did not harm residents, the report says.

"Since pressure ulcers (bed sores) are, by definition, a wound and are well recognized as a serious problem, one might consider that any case of a pressure ulcer developing is harmful to the individual," the report says.

The report says nursing home inspectors in New York and other states also downplay other problems such as understaffing and inappropriate drugging of residents with antipsychotic medications.

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NY nursing home inspectors lax about bedsores, other care problems, report says