Saturday, May 16, 2015

Peter Falk's Daughter: Rights Bills Sparked by Dad's Case

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The daughter of beloved character actor Peter Falk is waging a state-by-state campaign to grant children access to an elderly or incapacitated parent who is under someone else's care, and on Thursday she told Newsmax TV that her visiting-rights bills are advancing in New York and California.

"The visitation bill basically is a protection, a law that protects adult children and ailing elderly parents when your parent is being isolated or secluded away from family, friends and loved ones," Catherine Falk told "Newsmax Now" co-hosts Miranda Khan and John Bachman.

Falk was caught up in a very public battle over access to her father, best known as the rumpled detective in the classic network television series, "Columbo." Diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in his later years, he died in 2011 at age 83 at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Catherine Falk said at the time that her stepmother, Peter Falk's second wife, Shera, banned her from the funeral. The bulk of the actor's estate went to Falk's second wife, according to reports.

In the years immediately preceding his death, "My dad was basically incapacitated," said Falk.

"He had Alzheimer's disease, he had just gone through hip replacement surgery, and nobody could access my dad," she said.

She went to court to contest the exclusion and learned that California law favors spouses in family disputes over probate, power of attorney and conservatorship, and that she would have to legally challenge her stepmother's designation as conservator, she said.

After her father's death, Falk said, she and her lawyer decided to seek a change in the law. The result is the Peter Falk Bill introduced in the legislatures of California and the actor's home state, New York, by lawmakers who have taken up the cause.

"This streamlines the process where an adult child can go into court and petition the court without having to go through a long, lengthy battle in probate court and spend $100,000," said Falk. "It holds the caretaker accountable for any type of elder abuse, and it also allows children the ability to see their parents."

Falk said she would like to see federal legislation and for now is concentrating on getting states aboard. She said she is not fundraising, just trying to create awareness and momentum.

Until any Falk bill becomes law, there is "absolutely nothing on the books" to protect others from the same "awful" experience she had, she said.

"There's no legal recourse that adult children have currently that allows them to get any visitation to their parents," said Falk. "They're isolated, and isolation means elder abuse. We need a law to protect us and to protect our parents so that we can have a relationship in their final years and days of their life."

Full Article & Source:
Peter Falk's Daughter: Rights Bills Sparked by Dad's Case

Couple arrested for elderly scam on family members

Amy Smith
BOONE COUNTY, MO -- Boone County Sheriff’s investigators say a 92-year-old woman and her 63-year-old daughter are the victims of a family scam.

Detectives said Davey and Amy Smith stole more than $15,000 from the 2 victims by cashing social security checks.

Davey Smith
Amy Smith is the niece of the older woman and the cousin of the younger senior citizen.

The victims received about $2,000 a month in social security benefits.

Deputies arrested the Boone County couple after the Department of Health and Senior Services got a hotline call about the alleged crime on Ketterer Road near Route B north of Columbia.

Court documents obtained by KRCG 13 indicate the Smiths also charged their alleged victims $400 a month for rent.

Investigators said the victims were living under substandard conditions.

Boone County Sheriff’s Detective Tom O’Sullivan said, “There are situations where reasonable, responsible people do have access to an elderly relative’s financial resources and they act appropriately. This wasn’t the case here.”

Prosecutors charged Davey and Amy Smith with financial exploitation of the elderly and third degree elderly abuse.

Full Article & Source:
Couple arrested for elderly scam on family members 

Bonnie Kraham: Taking care of loved ones costs families billions

More than 44 million people in the United States act as caregivers for elderly or disabled loved ones, devoting significant amounts of time, money and energy.
According to researchers at the RAND Corporation think tank, the informal cost of elder care in the United States paid by caregivers out of their own funds is more than $522 billion every year, representing more than 30 billion hours of labor. Both personal and opportunity costs of caregivers are being ignored, causing serious problems for caregivers across the country.
The RAND Corporation calculated the cost of unpaid work caregivers perform for their elderly loved ones in addition to the opportunity cost of caregivers, meaning caregivers lose their own income due to the time spent in caregiving. The $522 billion spent on elder care every year by caregivers is more than all federal spending on Medicare in 2013.
The new research used 2011 U.S. Census Bureau information about the amount of time people spend helping elderly relatives and friends.
The RAND study is similar to a report published by the MetLife Foundation in 2011 that estimated the average amount of lost wages and Social Security benefits for caregivers over the age of 50 to be more than $300,000. The total aggregate loss in wages and Social Security benefits across the country was almost $3 trillion. Unfortunately, government entities and nonprofit organizations do not provide caregivers with much needed financial help.
Caregivers often use their own money taking care of loved ones out of necessity. The Medicare program does not cover any type of long-term care, and elderly loved ones do not qualify for Medicaid unless they fall beneath the income and asset threshold for care. Some caregivers rely on their elderly loved one's long-term care insurance coverage, but very few people have long-term care insurance and many companies increased their premiums to unsustainable rates.
Not much help is on the horizon from legislative action. Congress has yet to renew the Older Americans Act that provides funding for elderly services such as nutrition and transportation. The federal commission on long-term care has yet to agree on financing long-term care, a debate dating back to 2012.
Experts agree there is no simple solution to the issues surrounding the informal cost of caregiving. Reforms will require a combination of private insurance and public assistance from state and federal institutions. Some have suggested the creation of a social insurance system to cover the costs of any catastrophic care needs, while others suggest that employers need to do more in terms of helping employees who double as caregivers. Other ideas to help cover the gaps in the informal and astronomical costs of caregiving include elder care benefits and flexible workplace schedules.
The lesson here for potential caregivers may be to encourage parents to obtain long-term care insurance coverage so that, in the event a son or daughter has to leave their job to provide caregiving, the insurance can replace their lost wages.
Bonnie Kraham is an attorney practicing elder law estate planning with Ettinger Law Firm, 75 Crystal Run Road, Middletown. She can be reached at 845-692-8700, ext. 119 or This column is intended to provide general information, not legal advice.

Full Article & Source:
Bonnie Kraham: Taking care of loved ones costs families billions

Friday, May 15, 2015

Trial Court Slams Guardian for Theft of Assets and Ignorance of Duties

Written by Jordan Hammer • May 13th, 2015

Jeffrey Skatoff
A plenary guardian in Florida is vested with the exclusive power to manage and administer the Ward’s property.  This power is balanced, and the potential for abuse safeguarded, by an obligation on the part of the guardian to account for his/her financial activities.

Fla. Stat. § 744.3678 explains the data which a guardian’s annual accounting is required to contain; namely receipts, expenditures, disbursements, and capital gains/losses of guardianship assets.  Though not interpreted by any appellate court to date, this statute further suggests that a guardian must account for assets in the Ward’s name and for assets held by the Ward’s revocable trust if the guardian is also serving as trustee of said trust.  Interested persons, such as next of kin, are permitted under Florida law to object to any transaction or information disclosed in one of these guardianship accountings.  Fla. Stat. § 744.367.

Recently, we successfully litigated objections to a guardian’s accountings in a Palm Beach County guardianship matter.  In our case, the Ward was adjudicated totally incapacitated in April 2011 and one of her two sons was appointed as her plenary guardian with authority to exercise all delegable legal rights and powers of the Ward.  Because of the Ward’s incapacity, the Guardian also succeeded the Ward as trustee of the Ward’s revocable trust.  Our client was the Ward’s other son, and brother of the Guardian.

From the inception of the guardianship, the Guardian in this matter has been chronically incapable of filing an account which the Court would accept.  As recently as March 2014, the Guardian was still seeking Court approval of his accounting for the fiscal year April 2011 - April 2012.  When the Guardian filed an amended accounting for this period, we objected on grounds that the Guardian (i) improperly commingled guardianship and trust assets and (ii) used the Ward’s funds/Trust funds for his own benefit and/or stole from the Ward.  With respect to the latter ground, we noted that there were substantial expenditures of funds for extensive renovations to the home of the Guardian’s girlfriend.  The Guardian maintained that these expenses were justified since the Ward was living in the home of the Guardian’s girlfriend. The Court sustained our objections and ordered the filing of a Second Amended Annual Accounting and an Accounting of Trustee.  The Guardian filed these accountings in February 2015.

We objected to the Second Amended Annual Accounting and an Accounting of Trustee on numerous grounds.  Notably, these attempted accountings by the Guardian disclosed for the first time that the guardianship and/or Trust loaned money to the Guardian.  That is, the Guardian maintained that any transactions which appeared on paper to suggest that he was spending the Ward’s funds or Trust funds on himself were in actuality part of a large-scale loan made to the Guardian.  These accountings further set forth the amount of funds spent on the aforementioned renovations to the home of the Guardian’s girlfriend.  We objected to existence of any loans, as the Guardian was not authorized to loan money to himself.  See Fla. Stat. §§ 744.446; 744.454.  We further objected to the renovation of the girlfriend’s home as being beyond anything reasonably necessary for the Ward’s care (i.e., the renovations served the interests of the Guardian and his girlfriend).  It should be noted that the amount at issue in the objected-to transactions exceeded several hundred thousand dollars.

The Court sustained most of our objections and made detailed findings regarding the character of the Guardian’s conduct.  The Court’s order, which has been reproduced here in a redacted form, provides great insight into how the purposes of the guardianship statutes—protecting the rights of incapacitated persons and managing their financial resources—can be effectively implemented and furthered through review of a guardian’s conduct.  As is readily apparent from the Order, the Court is greatly disturbed and frustrated by the Guardian’s actions, describing them as unconscionable, unacceptable, reprehensible, and “inapposite to . . . fiduciary and statutory duties as a Trustee and Guardian.”  The Guardian’s conduct is characterized as a “systematic and purposeful looting of assets,” representing an “attempt to place . . . assets outside the protection of the Court and the law, and to deny access to those assets to any other interested person.”  The Court suggests that the Guardian’s conduct may even be criminally actionable.  In rendering its decision, the Court explains that the Guardian will again have to account (for a fourth time) and will be liable to our client for attorneys’ fees and surcharge.

The factual findings and conclusions of law set forth in the Court’s order cannot be understated as the Court chronicles its frustrations with the Guardian in excruciating detail, creating in the process an example which all future guardians should endeavor to actively avoid emulating.  This case represents a victory not just for our client and our firm, but for those involved in guardianship matters generally.  Put simply, Courts will hear objections and will review all the evidence, and if warranted, will punish wrongdoing by guardians.

Full Article & Source:
Trial Court Slams Guardian for Theft of Assets and Ignorance of Duties

Batavia Nursing Home owner faces charges in Mohawk Valley case

By Paul Mrozek 
The owner of Batavia Nursing Home pleaded not guilty last week to a violation of health laws at another skilled nursing facility of which he is part owner, Mohawk Valley Nursing Home in Ilion, N.Y.

Gerald “Jerry” Wood III, 30, of Dix Hills also allegedly tried to cover up the violations at the Mohawk Valley facility, according to the office of State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Wood purchased Batavia Nursing Home for $2,525,000 in 2013, while the 62-bed facility was in bankruptcy court. The defendant owns multiple nursing homes throughout the state.

Wood appeared May 7 in Herkimer County Court to answer charges in connection with the Mohawk Valley skilled nursing facility. The allegations are that Wood and three other owners or senior administrators of Mohawk Valley Nursing Home suppressed and covered up two medical incidents that occurred in May 2013.

The indictment alleges that a patient with severe dementia committed unlawful sexual conduct against another resident and that the incident occurred in an unsupervised dining room. A second charge in the indictment is that a serious medication error went undetected for several days.

Wood also allegedly eavesdropped on state investigators as they interviewed a nursing home employee.

Wood pleaded not guilty to four charges, two counts of willful violation of health laws, one count of eavesdropping and one count of fifth-degree conspiracy.

A call to Batavia Nursing Home Tuesday was referred to Gerald Wood III’s attorney, Richard Harrow of Albany. Harrow could not be reached to comment Tuesday.

The press office of the state Department of Health could also not be reached to comment.

The indictment filed in Herkimer County Court includes a total of 45 counts against the four defendants. One of Wood’s relatives, Justin Wood, 29, of Dix Hills, also a part-owner of the Mohawk Valley business and its technical manager, was charged with fifth-degree conspiracy.

Justin Wood and his co-defendants also allegedly destroyed electronic evidence of the two medical incidents.

The maximum penalty for the felonies the defendants face, eavesdropping, falsifying business records and tampering with physical evidence, is 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison. The maximum sentence on the misdemeanor charges of willful violation of the health law, criminal possession of a forged instrument, forgery and conspiracy is one year in jail.

An ironic development concerning Batavia Nursing Home is that Marc Korn, its former owner,  faces criminal charges in federal court in Buffalo. Korn, 58, owned Batavia Nursing Home when the business filed for bankruptcy in 2011.

A federal grand jury indicted Korn last month. He allegedly lied to FBI investigators and concealed assets from his creditors, including a life insurance policy transferred to another individual.

Charges against Korn include wire fraud, bank fraud, failure to pay employment taxes and making false statements to law enforcement, according to the office of U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr.

The state Department of Health, in response to numerous problems at Batavia Nursing Home when Korn owned it, appointed an administrator in 2012 to run the facility. One of the issues at the nursing home prior to the bankruptcy filing was bounced employee paychecks.

Korn’s trial is slated to start May 20 in U.S. District Court in Buffalo.

Full Article & Source:
Batavia Nursing Home owner faces charges in Mohawk Valley case

Former Fulton nursing home worker indicted on assault

FRANKFORT, Ky - A former Fulton health care worker was indicted on an assault charge, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway announced Wednesday.

The woman, 34-year-old Crystal Marie Leyhue, was a caregiver at Haws Memorial Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Fulton. Leyhue is alleged to have placed a hot pepper into an 82-year-old resident's mouth on Nov. 4.

The attorney general's office says the incident was video-recorded, and that Leyhue was heard laughing at the octogenarian's reaction. Another employee who saw what happened reported it to her superiors, and Leyhue was fired.

Leyhue currently lives in Dresden, Tennessee, and a summons will be issued for her to appear for arraignment. She was indicted on one count of fourth degree assault. If convicted, she could be sentenced to up to a year in jail.

Conway's Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Control Unit investigated the case after a referral from the Department of Community Based Services. Fulton County Attorney Rick Majors is prosecuting the case.

Full Article & Source:
Former Fulton nursing home worker indicted on assault <

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Tonight on T.S. Radio: Ted Chabasinski: Barbaric Electroshock Still Used on Adults, Children

Ted Chabasinski is an attorney and human rights activist in Berkeley, California. In 1944, as a 6-year-old boy so intellectually gifted he jumped from first grade to third he was taken from his foster home in the Bronx to New York’s Bellevue Hospital where he was pronounced “schizophrenic”, because his mother had been labelled “schizophrenic”. There he began a series of 20 electro-convulsive shock treatments. The boy, Ted Chabasinski, was one of hundreds of children used in ECT experiments. Tests since condemned as barbaric. He remained an inmate in a state psychiatric hospital until the age of seventeen. Chabasinski survived and became active in the civil rights movement and ultimately an attorney.

Chabasinski led a successful effort to ban ECT in the city of Berkeley, California, in 1982, which voters overwhelmingly passed, only to be overturned by well-funded psychiatric interests.

In January 2007 Chabasinski acted as the attorney for the late psychiatric survivor activist and author Judi Chamberlain, the medical journalist and author of Mad in America and Anatomy of an Epidemic, Robert Whitaker, and the director of MindFreedom International David Oaks in opposing a motion by Eli Lilly to extend an injunction to conceal documents that revealed that the company had known for the previous decade of the potentially lethal effects of Zyprexa ( an antipsychotic )and had engaged in an illegal off-label marketing campaign.

As a patients’ rights lawyer, Chabasinski continues to champion human rights, and writes, speaks, and blogs on issues of individual rights and freedoms.

Most recently, he has organized an International Day of Protest Against Shock Treatment, being held on May 16, 2015. There will be demonstrations in many countries and cities around the world.

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

LISTEN to the show live or listen to the archive later

Throw Back Thursday: 96-Year-Old WWII Connecticut Veteran's Plight Brings Call for Probate Court Reform

Note: Originally published October 24, 2014:
Ideally, when 96-year-old Louis Russo had to leave his home temporarily, the probate judge would have appointed someone who understood his wishes and who wanted to carry them out.

Instead, under the care of a court-appointed conservator, the World War II veteran, who had always lived independently, was stripped of his rights, relegated to a nursing home and drained of his life savings.

Russo's friends and supporters are channeling their energy into getting him back into his New Fairfield house by Veterans Day.

Meanwhile, their outrage has intensified calls for review, reform and legislation to ensure that there aren't more cases like his.

"I have great respect for the vast majority of conservators in Probate Court, but I am aware that there have been a few very bad cases, and that is a few too many," said Keith Bradoc Gallant, a New Haven attorney and leading authority on probate procedure. "We just need to work on fixing that."

At issue is how to prevent misconduct when a court-appointed conservator is given full power over a person deemed disabled by age or mental incapacity.

Connecticut can learn from other states that use social workers as conservators, because they are trained to navigate the social service system, Gallant said. There is also a growing sense nationwide that the power of conservators should be checked, he added.

Although experts argue that misconduct is rare among conservators in Connecticut probate courts, activists warn that as the population ages, the demand for conservators is going to grow.

All the more reason to be sure that conservators are well-qualified and well-monitored, a top court official said. "I would like to build a program for statewide training and support for conservators," said Probate Court Administrator Paul Knierim. Knierim, who manages the state's 54 probate courts, said he is open to establishing a licensing program for conservators, like those in other states.

Russo's story
Had there been kin in Russo's life following a fall at his home two summers ago, when a social worker reported to Probate Court that he could no longer manage his affairs, the judge possibly would have considered naming a family member as conservator.

Besides wanting a conservator competent enough to manage a person's financial and health affairs, the probate judge typically looks for someone compassionate enough to keep the person's best interests at heart.

"You are talking about a combination of factors that really are challenging," said Gallant, who serves as the American College of Trust and Estate's representative to the National Guardianship Association. "The problem is how you find individuals with integrity to take on these very difficult tasks."

Since Russo never married and his closest kin was an 88-year-old sister in Florida too frail to care for him, Housatonic Probate Judge Martin Landgrebe appointed as conservator a man Russo had never met, Mark Broadmeyer, whose qualifications for the post were not clear.

Instead of putting Russo in a veterans home, where he could have stayed without charge while repairs to his own home were made, Broadmeyer placed Russo in a Danbury nursing home, where he racked up bills he could not afford.

Broadmeyer spent Russo's $35,000 in life savings and $10,000 in Social Security income on repairs and his own fees over the next 16 months, ignoring Russo's pleas to return home.

Broadmeyer even rented Russo's home out without the judge's permission.

Probate reform Connecticut's probate courts were reformed most recently in 2009, when more than 130 courts were consolidated into today's 54. And for the first time, judges were required to be attorneys. Complaints about conservators are handled in Probate Court by the same judges who appointed them.

In Russo's case, as soon as Landgrebe learned that Broadmeyer had rented out the home behind his back, the judge ordered Broadmeyer to evict the tenants and pay the eviction costs himself. Broadmeyer quit instead.

Knierim refused to comment on the case, because Broadmeyer is being investigated by Russo's newly appointed conservator, Danbury attorney Dean Lewis. Lewis' solution was to reimburse part of the tenants' expenses if they agreed to leave by Oct. 20, which they did. Lewis plans to begin his investigation of Broadmeyer once Russo is back in his home. State Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, said the judge would have seen red flags much sooner with stricter reporting requirements that could have spared Russo months of suffering. "I'm hopeful to have some legislation to introduce soon," he said.

Source: a href="">WWII Veteran's Plight Brings Call for Probate Court Reform


The story of a 96 Year Old WWII Combat Veteran, his battle for dignity and justice, and those that would become his new family and his new alliance.

Operation Vet Fit founder and Veterans Advocate, US Marine Veterans, Daniel R. Gaita assist 96 year-old, WWII Combat Veterans Louis Russo during his Jan 28th, 2015 Probate Court Hearing. This video is a short segment from a 5 hour hearing.

Source: YouTube

Source:  YouTube

Doug Franks: Free Ernestine!

This is Doug Franks discussing the circumstances that led to his mother Mrs. Ernestine Franks being put under court-ordered guardianship, even though all medical and psychiatric tests showed Mrs. Franks had no mental impairment, was not suffering from any type of dementia, but the Trust officer and the judge decided it would be best to "protect" Mrs. Franks.

See Also: NASGA: Ernestine Franks, Florida Victim

Ohio Advocate Tom Fields Attends Regional Meeting of the WHCoA

NASGA affiliate  advocate Tom Fields attended the fourth of five regional meetings of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging.

Please click the links for additional information:

Financial Fraud, Abuse, and Exploitation

Who Lied? (Discussion of a 3 minute video recorded in the ER of a Texas hospital)

WHCoA website

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Public can comment on proposed changes to Missouri's guardianship law

ST. LOUIS • Four years in the making, a task force last week finished a draft revision to a state law that affects some of Missouri’s most vulnerable residents — 30,000 wards or clients deemed too incapacitated to make decisions for themselves.

Another 23,000 cases involve minors whose parents were found unable to make choices for them.

The law covers people with mental illness, head injuries and other issues that cause them to have court-appointed guardians as substitute decision makers. Guardians typically have the ultimate say on anything from a ward’s roommate to personal property to life support.

“As we review the law, we are making sure people are protected before their basic civil liberties are taken from them,” said Dan Wheeler, a former probate commissioner in Jackson County who is part of the Missouri Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakeholders, or MO-WINGS.

MO-WINGS started meeting in 2012 to review and recommend changes to the 100-page guardianship law. The law last underwent a major revision in 1983.

“It’s good to look at any body of statutes at least every 20 years because things can get very outdated in the Missouri code if you aren’t careful,” said David English, a co-chair of the task force and law professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Among the possible changes, the task force seeks a better balance between safety for wards and protection of civil liberties. It wants to increase the possibility of a limited guardianship, so some wards can be more involved in decision making if a probate judge agrees that is appropriate, for instance to get permission to vote or change residences.

The task force wants to update the wording and organization of the statute so families can more easily understand the law before they lose parental rights, or the power to make decisions for spouses and relatives.

The proposed changes coincide with dramatic increases in the number of people the law affects.

Missouri had 29,908 adult wards under guardianship in 2014, a jump from 21,356 in 2001, according to Wheeler, who reviewed statistics provided by the Missouri Supreme Court. The number of minors under court-ordered guardianship doubled in that period, from 11,769 in 2001 to 23,239 in 2014. Those figures include people who have been given conservators to oversee financial decisions.

The number of elderly wards is expected to continue to rise as baby boomers age.

Meanwhile, heightened caseloads can take their toll on court-ordered guardians. Many are family members or friends. But the guardian of last resort is the public administrator — one in each county and the city of St. Louis. They take care of physical needs, placement in nursing homes or more restrictive environments for those who do not have anyone to care for them.

The decisions public administrators make also cover daily life, including whether their wards can drive, marry or divorce. Technically, wards aren’t even supposed to buy anything without permission.

Some wards have been debilitated by car accidents. Others have lost their mental ability to function over time because of dementia and associated age-related illnesses. Some are referred by hospitals that can’t discharge people who can’t take care of themselves.

“Today, I had to give consent to remove life support,” Jefferson County Deputy Public Administrator Mark DeClue said last month about a 79-year-old man who fell in a hospital. “You wouldn’t have wanted to talk to me three hours ago. I hardly knew this gentleman and he’s under my care. It’s not easy to say, ‘OK, let him go.’ ”

DeClue said the man became a ward in 2014 after he became depressed and combative. A probate court decided his family wasn’t able to make decisions for him.

DeClue said guardianship cases have “blossomed” in recent years. Ten or 15 years ago, he said the typical case involved an elderly person in a nursing home whose family stopped making payments. Now, he said, younger people with mental illness and drug issues are “coming our way very, very rapidly.”

St. Louis County Public Administrator Tom Arras said the whole idea is to protect a person who is not capable of making his or her own decisions. He’s concerned that proposals to update the guardianship law could pit the ward and guardian against each other.

“Reforms are going to make it harder for guardians to perform their function,” he said.

Christopher Cross, a court-appointed guardian from Springfield, Mo., said while reforms are needed he is concerned the wrong kind could cause “serious public safety risks when forensic clients are involved.”

At this point, the draft changes to the statute are only recommendations. Members of the MO-WINGS task force said public input will be sought until November. Until a website is developed, people can contact the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council or co-chairs of the task force for comment.

A formal proposal is expected to be presented to the 2016 Legislature.

Full Article & Source:
Public can comment on proposed changes to Missouri's guardianship law

Eagles co-founder Randy Meisner to undergo mental evaluation in conservator battle

A judge said Monday he wants a psychiatrist to evaluate Eagles co-founder Randy Meisner before ruling on a bid by the musician’s longtime friend to have a conservator appointed to look after the bassist’s personal needs as well as his finances and business affairs.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cunningham said that while some of the information provided by James Newton and his lawyers concerned him, it still fell short of showing any immediate threat of harm to the 69-year-old Meisner if the appointment is not made immediately.

Cunningham named Dr. David Trader to prepare a mental capacity report on Meisner and delayed until July 1 a decision on whether to appoint a temporary conservator. Newton has recommended that Frumeh Labow, who has a lengthy background in social work, be named to fill the role.

Meisner objected to the appointment of a temporary conservator.

“I just want all this nonsense to stop,” he said.

Cunningham said he was being careful to make sure he made the right decision.

“I just want to make sure people like you are protected,” Cunningham told Meisner.

Newton and his lawyers allege that Meisner’s wife, Lana Rae Meisner, has done little to help her spouse of nearly two decades battle addiction issues, primarily involving alcohol, but also including cocaine.

Newton’s lawyer, Troy Martin, included in his court papers a declaration from a nurse, Marla Dodd, who said she has known Meisner for about a year and that she and her husband, Bobby, are longtime fans of the Eagles.

Dodd stated that on April 14, Lana Meisner left a voice message in which she said in a slurred voice that she used cocaine and worried that Dodd’s husband, a police officer, might arrest her for doing so.

“You know, I do it, but I’m a functioning person,” Lana Meisner said, according to Dodd.

Lana Meisner also said her neighbors were spying on her and that the night before, there were two children in her back yard, one of whom was wearing a clown suit, according to Dodd.

Cunningham said that while the information Dodd presented about Lana Meisner concerned him, her alleged behavior did not pass the threshold of presenting an immediate threat to the musician.

“It’s borderline,” the judge said. “Plus, you have the husband-wife issue.”

Meisner’s court-appointed attorney, John Rogers, and his private lawyer, Bruce Fuller, both said they have talked to their client and found him to be lucid. They said he does not need anyone to look after his personal and financial needs.

Rogers also said Meisner has had success in fighting his addictions.

“He’s in a very stable environment when he is at home and my client is in absolutely no danger whatsoever,” Rogers said.

Meisner said he is not worried about his spouse abusing him.

“I love my wife,” he said.

Lana Meisner was present in the audience, but did not speak during the hearing.

But Dana Scott Meisner said in a separate declaration that he, too, is concerned about his father’s health and says his stepmother is “providing (his father) with the alcohol that is slowly killing him.”

Lana Meisner believes she can more easily “influence and manipulate” her husband when he drinks, Dana Meisner says.

He also accused his stepmother of trying to isolate the musician from his family members since the two married in the mid-1990s.

“This is a pattern with Lana,” according to Dana Meisner. “Ever since she has been married to my father, she has thrived on conflict and has attempted to create conflict within the family.”

Martin, who favored going forward today with appointing the temporary conservator, said addictions “are not something you switch off like a light switch. Our concern is Mr. Meisner’s health.”

Martin said after the hearing that he was disappointed the judge did not give Meisner immediate protection, but added he looked forward to the July 1 hearing.

The Eagles were founded in 1971 by Meisner, Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Bernie Leadon. Meisner co-wrote and sang the hit, “Take it to the Limit.”

— City News Service

Full Article & Source:
Eagles co-founder Randy Meisner to undergo mental evaluation in conservator battle

As elder abuse increases in Wyoming, officials work on educating public

Fraud, larceny charges are possible in some cases
Donna Navarrete used more than $8,000 of an 87-year-old man’s state pension to pay her own bills instead of his medical costs.

Rae J. Bosley spent $800 of a woman’s Social Security funds at a popular gambling destination in Colorado.

Lynne M. Poole transferred $14,700 of her mother’s money to her and her husband’s accounts, and was suspected of making unauthorized purchases and ATM withdrawals of more than $20,000.

In recent years, all three women were sentenced in Laramie County District Court to first-offender probation and ordered to pay back tens of thousands of dollars for abusing or exploiting vulnerable adults.

Their cases are examples of what can happen when court-appointed guardians, caretakers or family members with the wrong intentions have access to a vulnerable person’s finances.

As our nation continues to age, and many people choose to age at home, advocates are trying to call attention to elder abuse -- a crime that seems to be increasing in frequency.

“It’s absolutely escalating, and I think what we’re finding is that people just aren’t educated about it,” Kristi Skinner said last month during the Wyoming Conference on Aging.

Skinner recently became the program analyst for Adult Protective Services within the state’s Department of Family Services.

She said her task is going to be “getting out across the state and letting folks know: This is a problem.”

The Wyoming Conference on Aging last month highlighted elder abuse as an important issue, bringing in a California prosecutor who speaks passionately about pursuing people who perpetrate crimes against older individuals.

Laramie County District Attorney Jeremiah Sandburg said he feels the same.

“I was really very close to my grandparents, so any time I see that happening to anybody in society who’s a vulnerable adult, or potentially so, I take that very seriously,” he said.

“If we’re not protecting the vulnerable people in our society, then what the heck are we here for?”

Dorothy Thomas has worked as the program analyst for Adult Protective Services within DFS for the past nine years.

She described abuse of vulnerable adults as a “silent epidemic.”

“It’s family and caregivers who are perpetrating the crimes, which only makes elders and vulnerable adults more fearful” or hesitant to report them, she said.

Thomas compiled a report published in December that outlines the monetary toll that financial exploitation of vulnerable adults takes on state services.

National researchers have estimated that as many as 44 cases of financial exploitation go unreported for every case that is reported, according to Thomas’ report.

Statewide, six substantiated cases of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult in 2013 cost seniors and/or financial institutions $62,382.26, according to the report. The potential cost to Medicaid for those six cases was $431,072.

Cases are substantiated when the evidence gathered strongly suggests exploitation occurred. DFS can substantiate cases independent of whether criminal charges are ever filed.

Financially exploited vulnerable adults in 2013 ranged in age from 28 to 92, with the average age being 67, according to Thomas’ report.

The average financial loss per case that year was almost $10,400, with the largest amount stolen being $54,000.

In 2012, 16 victims ranged in age from 57 to 100, with the average age being 78. Those cases cost seniors and/or financial institutions nearly $790,000, and the potential cost to Medicaid that year was estimated to be just over $266,000.

The average financial loss per case that year was more than $46,000, with the largest amount stolen being $170,000.

Thomas’ report notes that there continues to be a perception that financial exploitation of vulnerable adults, especially by family members, is a civil matter, rather than criminal.

“Prosecution on a criminal level may still be possible; if not for exploitation, then for fraud or larceny,” the report says.

Sandburg echoed that sentiment.

He said it’s important for law enforcement and prosecutors to comb through every fact of a case to properly determine whether the matter should be pursued in civil or criminal court.

“We take these cases very seriously, and so we do give them that hard look, and we make sure to talk to all the interested parties,” he said.

“When you take that hard look at it, there is a prosecutable event often times that you wouldn’t find if you just looked at the affidavit or the report.”

Prosecuting vulnerable adult abuse crimes can presents challenges similar to those faced in pursuing child abuse or domestic violence.

Victims often are reluctant to report their perpetrator because in many cases it’s a family member.

“Whether it’s physical child abuse or spousal abuse or relative abuse or elderly physical abuse, you have a victim that may or may not be cooperative – that may or may not even be vocal,” Sandburg said.

He continued: “You may have a person who’s afraid -- afraid of what’s going to happen to them should the person that they are living with be taken away or their ability to stay with them be taken away.”

A guilty verdict could turn a victim’s entire future upside down.

Questions might run through his or her mind: “Am I going to lose my home? Am I going to have to go into an assisted living facility?”

As bad as things are in a victim’s current environment, the unknown can make them fear prosecution to the point they don’t want to cooperate, Sandburg explained.

“They feel they can continue to endure (their current situation),” he said.

Full Article & Source:
As elder abuse increases in Wyoming, officials work on educating public

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Steve Miller on the Removal of Nevada Private Guardian April Parks

April Parks
KTNV TV ABC News reported [on May 6th] that for hire private guardian April Parks has been stricken from the State of Nevada's list of professional guardians for taking financial advantage of her court appointed wards.

However, Parks' exclusion from the state list does not prevent appointed Clark County Family Court "Guardianship Commissioner" Jon Norheim, or his boss Judge Charles Hoskin from continuing to appoint her, or her mentor Jared Shafer as guardians of the lives and fortunes of additional well to do Southern Nevada retirees.

Hopefully, the State of Nevada will apply the same standards to Mr. Shafer in the near future so he cannot continue to drain the life savings of other wards appointed to him by Judge Hoskin and Commissioner Norheim. The video of Jason Hanson one of Jared E. Shafer's many exploited wards appointed to him by Judge Hoskin and Commissioner Norheim.

Here is Darcy Spears' excellent news story with video:


The video testimony of Jason Hanson, one of Jared E. Shafer's many exploited "wards":

Jared E. Shafer

Patience Bristol

Convoluted Case: How a Contentious Michigan Guardianship Devolved into a Probate Court Battle That Could Affect All Bloggers’ Rights

An Oakland County Probate Court judge is being asked by a court-appointed guardian to issue a ruling on May 4 that could ultimately impact all bloggers’ rights to free speech.

Oakland County Probate Court Judge Kathleen Ryan has been asked by Steve (Steven) Siporin of Royal Oak, Mich.-based  Siporin & Associates to order a Farmington Hills, Mich. man to, among other things, redact all references on the website to persons or organizations associated with the case involving one of his wards.

Tom Nithyanand
Siporin has been sole guardian of the ward – Tom Nithyanand – since last July. Nithyanand, 21, and his family, including his father, Anand Sadashivan, admit to not learning enough about how such a guardianship could essentially set Tom back in his recovery from a 2010 traumatic brain injury.

To help others avoid the situation they launched to raise awareness of how a guardianship can go wrong and prompt Michigan legislators to take action as their counterparts in Ohio recently have done.

Anand Adishivan
“ is a blog we launched that contains facts that we believed to be true at the time of posting and our opinions,” says Anand.

“We want to help people. We believed that was the intent of the guardian when he met with us a year ago so it seems odd that he is so anxious about the blog.”

Monday’s hearing in Pontiac is a result of Anand petitioning the court to remove Siporin as guardian, claiming his son has not improved since Siporin became guardian in July 2014. In fact, the family claims Tom has worsened in many ways over the course of the year.

Originally, the family asked for a court-appointed guardian because Tom received a large insurance settlement as a result of being hit while walking in 2010. As non-U.S. citizens, the family asked the court to appoint a co-guardian. Siporin and the family met a couple of times in early 2014 and Anand says a kind of trust was established – so much so that Anand asked the court to appoint Siporin.

When Anand and Tom argued over spending money last June, Siporin used a typical father/son verbal spat to get a court order that named him sole guardian and gave him the right to take Tom from his home and to Rainbow Rehabilitation of Farmington Hills. It also gave him control over all of Tom’s medical care and assets, such as the limitless funds received by Tom through Michigan’s no-fault insurance laws and intended to be used for his continued recovery.

At first, Tom was confined to remain under care of Rainbow Rehabilitation 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That loosened at the end of 2014 and he’s been able to go home on weekends since. But the fact remains that every Monday he must go back to Rainbow Rehabilitation.

“It’s amazing and scary how fast things involving my son’s well-being devolved from Mr. Siporin sitting with us, establishing trust and developing the framework of a plan for my son’s future to a debate over basic media law,” says Anand. “Let us not forget the point – we asked for help. We do not want others to have to needlessly go through what we have, so we started our blog to raise awareness of how the system can work or not work.”

Full Article and Source:

Leading bioethicists back euthanasia for mentally ill

Many believe in euthanasia for the terminally ill. But why not legalize it for those suffering from an untreatable mental illness?

In the Journal of Medical Ethics, two influential bioethicists argue that we should allow euthanasia for patients suffering from ‘treatment-resistant’ depression. Udo Schuklenk, of Queens University in Canada, and Suzanne van de Vathorst, of the University of Amsterdam, claim it is discriminatory to allow euthanasia or assisted suicide for terminally ill patients but to deny it to those who suffer from incurable mental illness. Professor Schuklenk is co-editor of the journal Bioethics.

The authors see no relevant difference in the quality-of-life of patients in these situations:
“…Those who support acceding to assisted dying requests made by competent adults (and possibly mature minors) for irreversible conditions that render a patient’s life permanently not worth living to them have good reason to support the availability of assisted dying for competent patients suffering from TRD or other psychiatric disease… Incurable disease conditions that are not terminal by most definitions can also render competent people’s lives not worth living in their own well-considered judgement.”
The authors describe the immense suffering endured by those who suffer from incurable depression, and quote a lengthy excerpt from an American psychiatrist and biopolar sufferer: “Suicidal depression involves a kind of pain and hopelessness that is impossible to describe.”

They conclude that legislative bodies should seriously consider revising their restrictions on the availability of euthanasia:
“We recommend that jurisdictions considering the decriminalisation of assisted dying do not limit access to such services to patients suffering from a however defined terminal illness.”
The article poses an interesting question, relevant to euthanasia advocates and opponents alike: Can one rationally advocate for euthanasia while opposing its provision for those suffering from an incurable mental illness?

Many believe the answer is ‘no’, and for this reason refuse to support campaigns to legalize assisted dying.

Canada’s recent Supreme Court ruling may have opened the door for assisted suicide for those suffering from serious mental illness. The Supreme Court judgement stipulates the following conditions for assisted dying:
"(1) the person affected clearly consents to the termination of life; and (2) the person has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition."
 Full Article & Source:
Leading bioethicists back euthanasia for mentally ill

Monday, May 11, 2015

Attorney charged with theft from wards gives up law license

Paul Kormanik
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A central Ohio attorney accused of taking large amounts of money from his wards is giving up his law license.
Sixty-five-year-old Paul Kormanik submitted his application to retire or resign to the Ohio Supreme Court in December, but The Columbus Dispatch reports ( ) it was just unsealed this week.

Kormanik served as a court-appointed guardian for hundreds of people in central Ohio. He has pleaded not guilty to 11 felony counts including theft from an elderly or disabled person, records-tampering and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity

The Columbus Bar Association last month also brought 15 charges of professional misconduct against Kormanik, including misrepresentation of clients, misusing their money and making false statements.

His attorneys have requested to postpone the trial, which is scheduled to begin June 22.

Full Article & Source:
Attorney charged with theft from wards gives up law license 

See Also:
Lawyer charged with stealing from wards, bilking burial fund

Investigations launched into billing by lawyers appointed as guardians

Wards of indicted guardian are missing items, relatives say

Clark County (Nevada) Leaders Hear More About Potential Abuse in Guardianship System

Contact 13 continues to investigate allegations of potential abuse in the county's guardianship court after we heard from several families claiming the system can do more harm than good.

Clark County Commissioners are listening.

Today [May 5] they followed up with a promise to find out what can be done to better protect people who are deemed incompetent and become wards of the state.

District Court Chief Judge David Barker told commissioners he's also taking immediate action establishing a guardianship hotline to hear people's concerns.

The number for the guardianship hotline is (702) 671-4614.

And the Nevada Supreme Court is forming a high-level Guardianship Commission to look into problems.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak says the message for families who say they've been impacted by the system is clear. "We understand what their issues have been, issues that they raised, we're concerned about those. They've got our attention. It's been elevated to the highest level we can in the state of Nevada which is the Nevada Supreme Court to address those issues."

County Leaders Hear More About Potential Abuse in Guardianship System

Family says North Las Vegas Care Center was nursing home nightmare

By Darcy Spears. CREATED May 8, 2015
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- We count on them to care for us or for our loved ones.

Medical facilities where people go for rehabilitation and skilled nursing care.

But when the care isn't there, the consequences can be devastating.

Tonight, Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears has one family's nursing home nightmare at a place with a history of problems.

"It's my mom.  It's my only mom.  I don't have another mom," Robert Purdy said, looking over old photos, including one of his mom, Joanna Lewis, seated next to Elvis Presley.

She was a beauty queen and a smoker most of her life.

"And it caught up to her, finally, after 60 years," said Purdy.

But he doesn't believe the smoking alone killed his mother.

He and family friends believe the North Las Vegas Care Center is partially to blame.

"They quickened the process of her dying," said family friend Marsh Masek.

"I think they just put a diaper on her and put her in a bed and that was it," added Joanna's best friend, Karen Davis.

In February, Joanna was having trouble breathing.

She went to a hospital and after several days was discharged to North Las Vegas Care Center.

Darcy Spears: She was supposed to get rehab and get released?
Robert Purdy: Yes.  And it just, uh, she got very, very poor care there.

Karen Davis says she repeatedly asked staff to make sure Joanna stayed hydrated.

"And I said please, please, somebody get on the ball and do something about this!"
Two weeks after being admitted, things went very wrong.

"I noticed that her wrists and her ankles were blue," said Robert.  "And I noticed that her urine was very dark.  And I asked the nurse--I said, what's going on?"

Joanna's North Las Vegas Care Center records document an "unplanned discharge" by ambulance to North Vista hospital on February 27.

There's nothing in the record about why 911 was called, except to note it was the resident's and family's request.

"I said, do not let my mother die!"

In his complaint to the state, Robert reports that his mother had to be placed on life support at the hospital.

He claims she had pneumonia, a urinary tract infection, low blood pressure and severe dehydration.

"They immediately had to give her two liters of fluids, which is a lot."

Even so, Joanna Lewis was never able to recover.

She died earlier this week, but you can still hear her voice on Robert's home video.

Just a few days before she passed, Robert and Karen recorded her thoughts about North Las Vegas Care Center.

Joanna: It was just a bad experience.
Karen: Do you feel like they did anything for you that helped you?
Joanna: No.
Robert: How many times did you push that buzzer without any response?
Joanna: A thousand times.

Contact 13 learned North Las Vegas Care Center was written up by the state in April, 2014 for call buttons being out of patients' reach.

Two months later, state investigators found call bells not operating and residents not being effectively monitored.

Contact 13 reviewed hundreds of pages of state records documenting problems at the North Las Vegas Care Center.

In the last three years, the facility has paid more than $38,000 in fines.

In 2014, violations include inadequate care resulting in bed sores, failing to properly investigate multiple abuse allegations and patient injuries, and exceeding the medication error rate allowed by the state.

Also, a resident's clothes caught on fire and his chest was burned because they violated their own policy by allowing unsupervised smoking.

The state is currently investigating Joanna's case.

"Nobody deserves to suffer," said Robert, breaking down in tears.  "It's just a horrible thing."

And it's not just over the last year.

In May, 2012, state records show patients with unexplained injuries, patients left without oxygen, and inaccurate, incomplete medical records for half the sampled residents.

"I want this to be a wake-up call," said Karen Davis.  "I don't want what happened to Joanna to be in vain."

No one from North Las Vegas Care Center would go on camera.  In a written statement, Administrator Michael Fleming said:

"Everyone at North Las Vegas Care Center values the trust our residents and their families place in us, and we take any concerns they may have very seriously.  Due to privacy rules and regulations we are not permitted to provide any details about an individual’s care.  However, it is our policy to conduct a comprehensive internal review upon learning of concerns from a resident or family member and we are committed to swift and appropriate action to resolve any issues that might keep us from meeting our residents’ needs. I can assure you that everyone at North Las Vegas Care Center remains committed to the care and safety of our residents."

In a second statement, he wrote:

"Obviously if Mr. Purdy chooses to discuss his mother on television he has every right to do so but we cannot participate as we feel it is inappropriate to discuss a patient’s care in a television interview. Furthermore, with respect to your inquiry regarding state surveys, healthcare facilities are routinely subject to surveys which can result in monetary fines to ensure the facility is in compliance with Medicare and Medicaid requirements. Federal and State surveys are just one way we can identify areas in which we can improve. 

The staff at North Las Vegas Care Center takes the input of outside regulators very seriously and we work diligently every day to meet  and exceed the standards placed on us.  We work closely with the appropriate agencies to make meaningful changes that benefit our residents and we are constantly striving for improvement.  We  continually undertake quality and satisfaction initiatives designed to produce positive outcomes for our residents."

Regulatory agencies often just write up violations and allow facilities to correct their mistakes.

You should always check a facility's history before you place a loved one.

The Nevada State Health Division's Healthcare Quality and Compliance section sent this statement:

"An important message for your viewers:  When considering placing a loved one in a facility that HCQC licenses, you can always request a copy (or copies for prior years) of the facility’s inspection reports.  We try to post the surveys/plans of corrections on our website, but as we transition to our new website, there may be delays in posting the surveys.  After a loved one is placed in a facility, family members/friends are always encouraged to visit during different times of the day/week, ask for a copy of the most recent inspection report, get to know the staff and feel free to ask questions. Also, anyone can file a complaint with HCQC, via telephone, email, snail mail, or in person.  Complainants can remain anonymous.

If you want to look up a licensed facility, you should be able to find them here and here.

Full Article & Source:
Family says North Las Vegas Care Center was nursing home nightmare

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Thinking of our Mothers today -

Judges should enforce Nevada’s existing guardianship law, reform proponent says

A proposal to double the frequency at which guardians must file financial paperwork wouldn’t fix Nevada’s systemic problems, according to a key proponent for guardianship reform.

State law requires guardians — tasked with managing the finances of those deemed mentally incompetent — to file accountings of their wards’ assets and spending once a year. An amendment to SB 262 would make them file those documents twice annually.

Washoe County Chief Judge David Hardy, who advocates for tighter restrictions on guardians, said Thursday he does not agree with the proposed change while testifying in support of the bill in a meeting of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Wards would end up having to pay for the extra work, Hardy said, which can easily cost about $3,000 each time.

Filing the accounting paperwork once a year is more than adequate, Hardy said. The judges who oversee guardianships just need to make sure that’s being done.

A Review-Journal series in April showed some guardians didn’t bother filing the required paperwork. Some drained hundreds of thousands of dollars from wards’ accounts.

SB 262, sponsored by Sen. Becky Harris, R-Las Vegas, also calls for a change to the state law that requires guardians to be Nevada residents. Including Harris, 13 legislators are sponsoring the bill. Several more lawmakers asked to be added as co-sponsors during Thursday’s meeting.

Full Article & Source:
Judges should enforce Nevada’s existing guardianship law, reform proponent says

See Also:
Guardianship problems are widely reported but seldom fixed

Courts, Lawmakers Working on Protection for Weakest Citizens

Texas guardianship bill seeks to strengthen individual rights

By Lou Ann Anderson | Watchdog Arena

A Tuesday hearing before the Texas House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence addressing HB 3914 rekindled the ongoing debate over abusive guardianship. Reform advocates call the system one-sided and exploitative even as probate court personnel and associated parties defended the status quo.

State Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, introduced HB 3914, explaining how news coverage of high profile guardianship cases have made the public more aware of processes that occur in probate courts. The bill, she said, is to strengthen the due process of those proceedings while providing new protections and rights to persons alleged to be incapacitated by court-initiated guardianship proceedings.

“While we want to protect those truly incapacitated who might be at risk of being abused or exploited,” Klick noted, “the number of cases making news has been people who left you with the impression they didn’t really need a guardianship.”

Klick called guardianships “a pretty intrusive procedure.”

Guardianships can be of a person, of an estate or both. Depending on which, a person potentially cannot enter into a contract. They typically lose access to and control of their financial assets and physical property. Guardianships can cause a person to lose access of whom they can associate with. They can make no decisions regarding living arrangements or medical treatment. They can’t even vote.

HB 3914 seeks to establish additional requirements for court-initiated guardianship proceedings. It first calls for appointment of a guardian ad litem or court investigator to determine if the person is incapacitated and if a guardianship is necessary.

If a court appoints a guardian ad litem or court investigator, the bill calls for the following additional requirements:
  • The alleged incapacitated person may petition the court to have the appointment set aside.

  • The guardian ad litem or court investigator must provide notice to the person of their right to petition the court for the appointment to be set aside.
  • Within 48 hours of the order appointing the guardian ad litem or court investigator, that individual shall provide a copy and discuss the contents of the order with the alleged incapacitated person.
  • The court shall hold a preliminary hearing to determine a need for further investigation within reasonable time after the court appoints the guardian ad litem or court investigator.
In the establishment of probable cause for an investigation, the bill also requires an affidavit (opposed to a non-sworn information letter) from an interested party alleging facts or a written letter or certificate from a physician meeting certain requirements.

Seemingly simple, common sense measures easily gain favor of those having been targeted for unwarranted guardianships. And though these hearings are usually filled with legal industry practitioners willing to dispute the need for such enhancements, Tuesday’s hearing took a different tone.

While Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman reportedly signed up to testify against the bill, a nearly four-hour delay in the hearing’s start likely deterred Herman and another half-dozen bill supporters’ testimony.

Of those remaining, critics told stories of guardianship abuse, of the administrative ease and casualness of process often seen within these cases.

Debby Salinas Valdez, director of Guardianship Reform Advocates for the Disabled & Elderly  (GRADE), discussed the corporatization of guardianships.

Valdez testified how her organization receives calls from all over the state – specifically from Texas locales where probate courts are doing business with guardianship service providers that the Estates Code refers to as guardians and “more than likely that you all believe are guardians. “

“We need to begin focusing on the difference because family guardians aren’t the only ones who abuse, neglect and exploit their elderly and disabled family members,” Valdez said.

“As a matter of fact, you think back 10 years and there were few complaints about guardianships,” she continued. “You hear more complaints because Texas doesn’t have a mechanism to protect from guardianship service providers other than the judges who appoint them.”

A total of seven witnesses testified in support of the bill, none against. Upon Klick closing the hearing, Committee Chair John Smithee, R-Amarillo, noted a number of guardianship bills have come before his committee.

“The committee has become very aware of this issue,” he told Klick. “We appreciate your bill and hopefully the legislature will do something along these lines.”

“I know we all see the problem that exists and want to move forward on that.”

After Tuesday’s hearing, HB 3914 has since been reported favorably without amendments for further consideration.

Full Article & Source:
Texas guardianship bill seeks to strengthen individual rights