Saturday, January 30, 2016

Maine: Peter Falk Bill Helps Adult Children Visit Their Sick Parents

A bill influenced by a late Hollywood actor Peter Falk could ensure family members are able to visit sick loved ones.

Maine State Representative Archie Verow said meeting Catherine Falk inspired him to make sure children are not estranged from their parents, in times of sickness. Verow said, "In her case her dad was remarried and the subsequent wife would not permit the children of the first wife to have access to their dad."

Representative Archie Verow
For the past five years, Catherine has championed the cause around the country in almost 20 states. She has heard similar isolation cases to her own in legislatures across the nation and said in a telephone interview: "The most rewarding part of this is hearing people who testify in the Senate and House of their state. Their stories are powerful. This brings my crusade to the forefront. Historically there is no bill like this in our country. It really holds the guardian accountable."

Archie pointed to specific wording in this bill that will address the problems Catherine and many others have faced. "This bill would require notification by the spouse for any children of a previous marriage if their dad had to go to the hospital or had illness," stated Verow.

The bill was slated to go before the legislative council on Thursday but was tabled for a later date. Catherine explained that a guardianship should be a last resort.

Peter Falk Bill Helps Adult Children Visit Sick Parents

Sherry's Mom

Sherry Johnston's mother was abused in the guardianship system in Texas.

Sherry's Mom

See Also:
NASGA Victim Profile: Willie Jo Mills

NASGA: In Memoriam

NY Nursing Home Worker Accused of Pushing, Kicking and Leaving 68 Year-Old

A social worker employed by Absolut Care of Orchard Park is accused of pushing a nursing home resident to the ground before kicking her.

Prosecutors say Cheektowaga resident Susan Sanborn, 55, was observed on surveillance video pushing the 68-year-old resident during an incident near an exit door. Once the resident was on the ground, prosecutors say Sanborn kicked the their legs out of the way so that she could close the door and leave.

Authorities say Sanborn did not wait with the victim for medical help and did not return to check on them. The resident, who suffers from a brain injury and seizures, is a high risk for falls and cannot take care of herself.

“Nursing home residents are among our state’s most vulnerable citizens and their safety and security should be a given in a nursing facility,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office will not tolerate anyone being abused by those responsible for their care, and we will continue working to ensure that those most in need of help are safely cared for and treated with respect and dignity.”

Sanborn faces charges of endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person — a felony, and willful violation of health laws.

Full Article and Source:
Nursing Home Worker Accused of Pushing, Kicking and Leaving 68 Year-Old

Friday, January 29, 2016

Actor Peter Falk's Daughter Pushing for Change in Legal Guardianship Law

Some Colorado lawmakers want to strip some the decision making power from legal guardians, and they’re getting help from the daughter of a famous actor.

The bill is named after Peter Falk, the actor who played Columbo on TV.

What it does seems basic — it simply allows families to see their loved ones when they become incapacitated. It’s about the power of guardians and the rights of some of the most vulnerable Coloradans.

Peter Falk was known to TV viewers as the disheveled, endearing detective Columbo. Catherine Falk knew him as “Dad.” “He was exactly the same on screen as off screen,” Catherine Falk said. “He was just this tender, really funny, goofy person.”

 But Peter Falk’s life would take a tragic turn when he developed Alzheimer’s disease. His second wife isolated him, forcing his daughter to go to probate court just to see her father before he died. “It cost me close to $100,000 in my money, not my dad’s money, my money to get in just before he passed away; that’s wrong,” Catherine Falk said. 

Sen. Laura Woods, R-Jefferson County, agrees. “The same program designed to protect these vulnerable citizens also exposes them to exploitation,” Woods said.

 She’s introduced a bill — named after Peter Falk — that would prohibit guardians from cutting off contact with family. “The guardian assumes all of the rights of the person that they are guardian for; so they can say, ‘No visitors, no phone calls, no mail,’ and really isolate the most vulnerable in our society, which are the elderly and adults with disabilities,” Woods said.

 Full Article, Video, and Source:
 Actor Peter Falk's Daughter Pushing for Change in Legal Guardianship Law

John DeBryuyn, Marcia Southwick, Catherine Falk, Senator Woods

Actor Peter Falk's Daughter, Catherine Falk, Urges Changes in Colorado Law to Stop Family Battles

You might not know Catherine Falk, but you probably know her father Peter.

Actor Peter Falk portrayed Colombo for years on television and passed away in 2011.

Catherine was at the Colorado Legislative session Wednesday to push for changes in the state’s probate laws and pass the Peter Falk Act.

When Peter Falk was in his final years battling Alzheimer’s, she was banned from seeing him by her estranged stepmother. She took her fight to probate court where the process cost her $100,000.

“That’s the problem, we are advocating this bill because people don’t have this kind of money,” Falk told FOX31 Denver political reporter Joe St. George.

“I come here today no longer just the daughter of Peter Faulk,” Falk added.

The Falk Act would make it harder for adult children to be banned from seeing or caring for loved ones.

“We have a growing problem of people being isolated from family and friends,” State Sen. Laura Woods, who proposed the bill, said.

The Judiciary Committee cleared the bill on Wednesday and sent it to Appropriations.

Richard Sweetman, Marcia Southwick, Senator Woods, Catherine Falk

Actor Peter Falk's Daughter Urges Changes in Colorado Law

Catherine Falk, the daughter of actor Peter Falk who portrayed Colombo for years on television and died in 2011, was at the Colorado Legislative session Wednesday to push for changes in the state's probate laws and pass the Peter Falk Act.

When Peter Falk was in his final years battling Alzheimer's disease, she was banned from seeing him by her estranged stepmother. She took her fight to probate court where the process cost $100,000.

"That's the problem, we are advocating this bill because people don't have this kind of money," Falk said. "I come here today no longer just the daughter of Peter Falk."

The Falk Act would make it harder for adult children to be banned from seeing or caring for loved ones.

"We have a growing problem of people being isolated from family and friends," said State Sen. Laura Woods, who proposed the bill.

The Judiciary Committee cleared the bill on Wednesday and sent it to the Appropriations Committee. The Colorado Bar Association has spoken out against the bill.

Representatives said they are willing to work with Woods on future versions of the bill. The Colorado Bar Association said the current system should be able to address the issues that the victims have addressed.

Full Article, Video, and Source:
Actor Peter Falk's Daughter Urges Changes in Colorado Law to Stop Family Battles Over Inheritances

Marcia Southwick, Catherine Falk, Senator Laura Woods 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Chief judge investigating Post’s findings on Colin, Savitt

Judge Jeffrey Colbath
The chief judge for Palm Beach County said Wednesday that he is investigating what needs to be done to address concerns brought forth by The Palm Beach Post’s stories on Circuit Judge Martin Colin’s role in adult guardianship.

Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath said in an email to The Post that he is in fact-finding mode and “is preparing to make appropriate changes to address concerns.”

Colin oversees family and probate matters in Delray Beach, including guardianships of adults no longer able to care for themselves. Colin’s wife, Elizabeth “Betsy” Savitt, is a former tennis pro turned professional guardian who operates in the same division and appears in front of Colin’s colleagues.

But Colbath and the chief judge before him, Peter Blanc, took no action to eliminate potential conflicts caused by the close relationships in the south county courthouse.

Colbath has the power to transfer Colin out of the Probate & Guardianship Division, where he has been since about 2009. He also has the power to transfer Circuit Judge David French, who has been a close friend of both Colin and Savitt and oversees many of her guardianships.

 he Post found Colin’s colleagues must approve Savitt’s fees and fees for attorneys who represent her in guardianships of incapacitated senior citizens, many with sizable life savings. Families have accused Savitt, a guardian since 2011, of double-billing, taking fees without prior court approval and pursuing unnecessary litigation to drum up fees.

Several families separately told The Post that Savitt openly cites her husband’s powerful position when confronted over her actions.

Savitt does not appear directly in front of her husband, but the attorneys who represent her litigated cases in front of him and relied on him at times to approve lucrative fees.

Two former Florida Supreme Court justices and a legal ethics expert told The Post the relationships pose a conflict of interest and appear improper.

After The Post started investigating last year, Colin recused himself from 115 cases in six months involving those attorneys who represent Savitt in guardianships, such as Ellen Morris, Sheri Hazeltine and John Pankauski, The Post reported Sunday. Previously, Colin said he required the attorneys to disclose their professional relationship with his wife, but The Post found that didn’t happen in at least one case.

“We have adopted long-standing approved methods to properly deal with such potential conflicts,” Colin told The Post.

Colbath has the power to transfer Colin or French out of the probate division. It’s common for judges to be rotated every few years.

Savitt pointed out that she has never been sanctioned by any of her husband’s colleagues and that complaints were from “disgruntled” family members. She also accused the paper of holding a grudge against her and her husband.

Families with seniors in Savitt’s guardianships told The Post that their complaints about her financial management of seniors’ life savings were ignored by Colin’s colleagues, especially French.

Of particular issue is the tens of thousands of dollars Savitt has taken in fees prior to judicial approval in either guardianships or probate cases after the senior has died. Overwhelmingly, attorneys in the elder law field told The Post that state guardianship law does not allow guardians to take fees before a judge gives the OK.

This week it has been business as usual in Colin’s courtroom in Delray Beach. Several attorneys told The Post they are not comfortable with the relationships in the probate division but fear repercussions if they speak out.

The families of some of Savitt’s current and former wards did not hold back.

“They should be moved out of probate, and if possible, moved off the bench,” said Jodi Rich, niece of Robert Paul Wein, who was in a Savitt guardianship before he died at 89 on Dec. 1.

“They are not abiding by ethical standards,” she said.

Thomas Mayes, whose mother, Helen O’Grady, was in a Savitt guardianship, said there needs not only to be further guardianship reform by state lawmakers but a criminal investigation into Savitt. He doubted, though, anything would done.

“They will just sweep the dirt under the rug or in a corner,” he said.

Skender Hoti, a Lake Worth restaurant owner, watched Savitt in February 2012 try to assist a family guardian in seizing nearly every possession in a house he owned before she was stopped by sheriff’s deputies.

“All their cases should be reviewed,” he said of Colin and French. “No judge should be able not to rotate and stay in the probate arena.”

Full Article & Source:
Chief judge investigating Post’s findings on Colin, Savitt

6 tips for seniors to protect themselves from ID theft

It seems like seniors have a target on their foreheads, and ID-theft criminals are taking aim to steal their information and money. Worse yet is that all too often seniors are ID-theft victims at the hands of friends and relatives. Take note and take action now!

Senior identity theft is on the rise, as 39 percent of all identity-theft victims were 50 years of age or older, according to the 2015 FTC Consumer Sentinel Network Report.

And while physical abuse and neglect of seniors have been and continue to be problems in the United States, senior identity theft and fraud leading to financial exploitation is another and emerging form of abuse.

The Identity Theft Resource Center, a non-profit San Diego based organization whose mission is to educate consumers, corporations, government agencies, and other organizations on best practices for fraud and identity theft detection,talks about the financial exploitation of the elderly.

“Both criminals and the ‘insider threat’ including relatives, friends and caretakers are examples of unscrupulous individuals targeting seniors,” according to Eva Casey-Velasquez, the President/CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center.

Criminals target older adults for identity theft and fraud because they believe seniors are less educated on the crime of identity theft and the current fraud scams, said Casey-Velasquez.

“But it’s not just criminals as relatives, friends and caretakers have exploited the trust of seniors when stealing savings and assets while damaging good credit that have taken years to accumulate and establish,” she said.

Older adults living in residential facilities, or under the care of someone, are at greater risk because the caretakers have access to the senior’s personal records. This creates a situation which allows unscrupulous individuals to exploit those in their care.

I have listed below five Identity Theft Resource Center examples of financial exploitation:
  1. establishing credit using the victims personal information
  2. cashing an elderly person’s check without permission
  3. forging the victim’s signature
  4. misusing or stealing a person’s money or possessions
  5. deceiving a victim into signing a contract, will, Power of Attorney, or other document
“In the end, identity-theft criminals can drain bank accounts, open new accounts, rack up huge credit card bills, obtain loans, apply for jobs, refinance the victim’s home, obtain medical care and even commit crimes with the victim’s identity,” said Casey-Velasquez.

So what can seniors do to protect themselves?
  • Caregiver backgrounds: Know your caregiver and look for suspicious activity and behavior. Conduct a background check even on a friend or family member, as greed and poor financials have motivated many good people to do bad things.
  • Secure sensitive documents: Secure any document containing personal and financial information including your Social Security number, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, driver’s license number and birth certificate.
  • Phone and email scams: Never provide personal and financial information to incoming phone calls or in response to an email. Your bank and any other legitimate business including the IRS, will never call or email you asking for personal and financial information.
  • Do not carry your Medicare or Social Security card in your wallet or purse: Make copies of your Social Security and Medicare cards and block out the last four digits of your Social Security number. This will prevent someone from knowing your full Social Security number if your wallet is lost or stolen.
  • Shred it: Shred anything you don't need to keep, such as documents that contain account information, Social Security numbers, PINs, or sensitive information — including credit card statements, bills, credit card receipts, unused checks, canceled checks and credit reports.
  • Check your credit and consider a credit freeze: Request a free credit report from and check your credit three times annually. Consider freezing access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.
  • Mark’s most important: Seniors and those proven trustworthy who care for seniors must pay attention to the risk of senior identity theft and look for suspicious activity from both criminals and insiders.
Mark Pribish is vice president and ID-theft practice leader at Merchants Information Solutions Inc., an ID-theft-background screening company based in Phoenix. Contact him at

Full Article & Source:
6 tips for seniors to protect themselves from ID theft

Home Care for Seniors: a Win-Win

 What's not to like? Older adults with disabling conditions get easier access to medical care. Doctors get out of their stuffy offices to make new-age house calls. Nurses hit the road and see what patients really need. Medicare gets the promise of reduced hospital readmissions. Family members get more peace of mind. And most important, seniors get a chance to stay in their homes as long as possible. Home health care in the U.S. comes in many forms. Here are just a few:

Home Field Advantage
With today's portable medical technology, physicians who make home visits can do as much or more for patients than primary care clinicians in offices, says Dr. Alan Kronhaus, co-founder and CEO of Doctors Making Housecalls, based in Durham, North Carolina.

His practice uses medical labs that can deploy a phlebotomist to a patient's home to draw blood and send the results electronically to the patient's chart. Imaging technicians can do ultrasounds or X-rays in the comfort of the patient's home.

These aren't everyday patients who get home visits. "For the most part, we're seeing frail, elderly, complex patients with multiple, chronic, active problems and often some degree of cognitive impairment," Kronhaus says.

Many clinical advantages come from seeing patients in their own environment, Kronhaus says, like the ability to manage medications more effectively when the doctor can see exactly what's inside the medicine cabinet. It's also a chance to spot nutritional supplements that patients wouldn't have thought to mention during an office visit.

And it's an opportunity to address diet concerns, Kronhaus adds. "You can look into the refrigerator and see how it's stocked – if you've got a diabetic patient who has banana cream pie." Doctors evaluate the environment as well, he says. "We look for things like steep steps without carpeting, area rugs without nonskid padding underneath, electrical cords that could represent a tripping hazard, poor lighting."

To compensate for the "opportunity costs" of the doctor's transit time, patients pay a direct travel fee of $95 per visit. But, Kronhaus says, other costs are avoided, such as paid time off at work taken by family members to escort patients to the doctor's office, the round-trip cost of a wheelchair-enabled van or, in the worst-case scenario, the cost of transport by ambulance.

Doctors Making Housecalls is participating in Independence at Home, a Medicare shared-savings demonstration project involving a handful of home-based primary health providers throughout the country. The project has been "an unabashed success," Kronhaus says. "We've achieved dramatic savings and very significant improvements in quality of care and patient satisfaction."

Piecing It Together
Home health agencies fill a gaping need, but with economic and reimbursement pressures, many are struggling to survive, says Jane Kelly, executive director of the Kansas Home Care Association, a nonprofit trade organization. "There are four agencies out in western Kansas that are trying to serve literally hundreds and hundreds of miles of rural farmlands," she says. "And people can't get services because the agencies can't stay afloat."

With home health care, insurance coverage is often a hurdle. Patients who are not housebound may not be covered, even though getting to medical appointments can be physically challenging and transportation difficult to arrange. There's a high bar for reimbursement, and once a patient shows some improvement, he or she may no longer qualify for home visits. Yet access to skilled nursing, physical therapy and other services at home can prevent costly hospital readmissions and help patients avoid expensive long-term facilities, Kelly says. "Most people want to stay at home as long as they can," she says.

Family members do their best to support ailing parents by assembling a patchwork of skilled and personal services – such as help with toileting, bathing and dressing – through limited insurance coverage and government funding, or by paying out of pocket. "The options are, you piece it together," Kelly says.

On the Road
There's a lot of "windshield time" for nurses providing home care in isolated rural areas, says Terri Wahle, a registered nurse and director of home care at Geary Community Hospital in Junction City, Kansas. Wahle's team works with retired farmers and many other patients with often limited means.

For the nurses, Wahle says, a 10-hour workday may include three hours spent on the road, meaning less time to provide much-needed care for chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Some homebound patients have several conditions.

After a hospital stay, supports at home may be lacking, Wahle says, even though patients' discharge plans say otherwise. "Do they have a bathroom they can get into with the walker?" she asks. "Are they able to fix themselves a meal? Are they able to get any food at all? Are they taking their medications?" These are some of the signs home health nurses look for.

Without regular access to home health care, some elderly or disabled patients can soon find themselves back in the hospital. "One of the things I've taken pride in for the last 30 years in home care is that we try to keep people in their own home for as long as it's safe and it's possible," Wahle says.

Quality Time at Home
When doctors or nurse practitioners go to patients' homes to make a thorough geriatric assessment, as part of a Medicare home-visit program, everybody wins, according to a recent study. The system saves money from lower hospital admission rates, and patients are less likely to enter long-term care facilities. With referrals to community providers and health plan resources, these patients tend to receive more follow-up care in the community and have a better chance of aging in place.

One problem with traditional health care, in which patients are only seen on providers' turf, is that health issues are dealt with in isolation, says study author Dr. Soeren Mattke, a senior scientist at RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization.

"When they go to the physician, they have maybe 10 minutes' face time," Mattke says. "So what often happens is the conversation focuses on what is the most pressing issue that day. But many other things that also have to be handled really never get any attention." Lingering problems from multiple conditions, while not immediately threatening, can worsen and accumulate, he says.

Comprehensive home assessments help uncover clues to frail seniors' health, Mattke says. Nutritional issues can emerge, for instance, like patients subsisting solely on canned beans. Like others, he remarks on the quantities of expired or discontinued medications patients typically have at home.

"After a while, they really don't know what's what anymore," he says. Invariably, he says, it's the most essential medications that patients stop taking first.

Safe Respite and Handy Help
Adult day programs provide respite for family home caregivers so they can return to their responsibilities with energy and spirits restored. "Ninety percent of the people who call us, [it's because] they don't want to put their husband or wife or their mom or their dad in a nursing home or a long-term care facility," says Darlene Turner, director of the West Valley life enrichment program at Benevilla, a provider of adult social care and support services based in Surprise, Arizona.

The situation might be that the husband has dementia and the wife needs a short break. "She would maybe like to go do groceries without having to worry about him, or maybe go get her hair done," Turner says. "Or go have lunch with her friends."

For seniors who attend, these programs improve quality of life, Turner says: "Once they get here, everyone is given an opportunity to have an enriching day, to do things they wouldn't usually do if they were left alone at home." The daily fee for an independent senior is $75, and it's $80 for an individual who requires some staff assistance, Turner says.

Other services, like home-delivered meals, benefit older adults living alone in the community.

Volunteers with Benevilla provide handyman services when needed: changing lightbulbs, replacing air conditioner filters, fixing leaky faucets. "We're actually able to send volunteers to their homes to bring their groceries, to pick them up and take them to doctors' appointments; maybe pick up prescriptions," Turner says. "And that way, they're able to stay in their own environment."

Full Article & Source:
Home Care for Seniors: a Win-Win

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Guardianships: A Broken Trust: Judges Socialized, Planned Trips Together

Judge David French
Judge Colin and his wife [Elizabeth Savitt] have socialized with one of the judges she appears in front of regularly, The Post has learned.

Colin and Circuit Judge David French eat lunch together nearly every day. Colin and French co-hosted a trivia night in May for the South Palm Beach Bar Association. The event was co-sponsored by Pankauski’s firm. French did not return repeated attempts for comment.

French’s first ex-wife Gayle Smith said her son, now grown, grew up in French’s household and knew Colin as his father’s running “mate” and that they often went on trips together.

French’s second ex-wife, Christine Connelly, said she and Judge French were friends with Colin and Savitt. The two couples had planned a cruise vacation about five years ago, but it fell through when Colin didn’t have his passport.

“We hung out, played tennis,” she said.

French apparently doesn’t always disclose this information to lawyers opposing Savitt in his courtroom on issues such as fees or her activities as a guardian.

Thomas Dougherty said he would have liked to have known that the judges socialized when he opposed Savitt in front of French.

Judge Colin
Judge Colin's Wife, Elizabeth Savitt

Full Article and Source:
Guardianships:  A Broken Trust:  Judges Socialized, Planned Trips Together

Guardianships: A Broken Trust: Albert Vassallo Sr.: From Friend to Friend to Enemy, Savitt Cites "Bad Blood"

James Vassallo can’t stop beating himself up. He blames himself for allowing [Elizabeth] Savitt to take control of his father’s finances. As result, he has a list of questions about Savitt’s actions that he says remains unanswered to his satisfaction.

Like in the O’Grady case, Vassallo sought the advice of Hark when he learned last year that his brother and sister had transferred $180,000 from the accounts of his father. And like in O’Grady, Hark steered him to Savitt, saying she would protect the assets of Albert Vassallo Sr., who was suffering from early stages of dementia.

Vassallo, who moved from Brooklyn to live next door and care for his father at Century Village in Deerfield Beach, says Savitt instead aligned with his sister who had taken $140,000 and other assets, according to demand letters.

Savitt successfully petitioned Judge French to remove Vassallo as a trustee to his father’s estate, which would have allowed him to retain some administrative control. Savitt claimed Vasallo wasn’t getting along with the very siblings, whose actions prompted him to seek the guardianship in the first place.

“If I knew her husband was a judge, I never would have went with her because whatever I said to her meant nothing. She can do whatever she wants because she has the court’s backing and that is exactly what is happening now,” said Vassallo.

In a voicemail that Vassallo still has, Savitt had assured him attorneys were working to remove his brother and sister but there was no reason to remove him because “you didn’t do anything wrong.” She did, however, suggest paying Hark more money to defend him just in case.
Elizabeth Savitt 

Vassallo said Savitt made her move to remove him from his father’s trust after he repeatedly questioned her billing practices. He estimates that Savitt and her attorneys collected $40,000 to get him off the trust. His father’s savings have been depleted by more than $200,000 in about year, he said.

Savitt said, “To accomplish getting he relief favorable to the Ward, and because of bad blood and conflicts between all three children of the Ward, it was agreed by the lawyers that I should be the sole trustee, not because of anything wrong James did.”

Vassallo produced email and bank statements showing how Savitt doubled-billed his father’s accounts by about $7,300 and did not pay it back until he confronted her with the bank account statements. “She never would have given that back on her own,” Vassallo said. The $7,300 plus a $3,000 retainer fee came before a judge approved them and even before she submitted a petition to the court for that money.

Full Article and Source:
Guardianships:  A Broken Trust:  Albert Vassallo Sr.:  From Friend to Friend to Enemy, Savitt Cites "Bad Blood"

Guardianships: A Broken Trust: Attorney: "Courts Have Allowed This Culture"

Ellen Morris
The conflict created for [Judge] Colin by his wife [Elizabeth Savitt] working as a professional guardian is a frequent topic of conversation among probate and elder law attorneys. But many told The Post that they fear reprisals for themselves or their clients if they speak on the record about Colin, particularly on matters involving his wife.

“I blame the courts because they have allowed this culture,” said one attorney, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Savitt acts with impunity because she has the wind behind her.”

Probate attorney Edward Shipe said Colin’s conflict of interest at the very least “doesn’t look right, doesn’t feel right.”

“I can’t sit here and deny that,” Shipe said. “So we got this wife and she wanted to do guardianship cases so she started a guardianship business. It was talked about before it happened. I was scratching my head a little bit, thinking, ‘You are going to have problems doing this.’”

Professor Jarvis questioned whether attorneys who represent Savitt hope to get an edge in front of Colin.

“Are they doing this either to curry favor with Judge Colin or to avoid his wrath?” Jarvis said.

Savitt often hires attorneys Hazeltine, Ellen Morris and John Pankauski, prolific practitioners in elder law. They or members of their firms practiced in front of Colin before he began recusing himself from their cases last year. From 2009 to 2014, Colin’s recusals totaled 30. Since the beginning of July, he’s taken himself off 133 cases — 115 involving his wife’s lawyers.

Hazeltine, Morris and Pankauski or their firms — as well as the guardians they represent — have had fees in non-Savitt cases repeatedly approved by Judge Colin, The Post found.

Clifford Hark of Boca Raton refers cases to Savitt. He has also earned fees approved by the judge in other cases. For example, Colin signed off on $51,000 from the estate of retired Judge Stanley Hornstine in September 2013.

One of O’Grady’s daughters, Kathleen Osterbuhr of Derby, Kan., wrote the court to say Hark promised the family to fight Savitt’s petitions for lucrative fees in court, but never followed through.

Mayes said in another letter that “Hark has made mistakes and prolonged this case for his benefit” and that Savitt’s “conflict of interest has caused more problems than it has solved.”

Hark told The Post he has been practicing for 28 years in South Florida and does not “rely on Judge Colin for my livelihood.”

“I represent and zealously advocate for my client’s interest regardless of Ms. Savitt’s involvement in the case,” he wrote to The Post in an email.

Full Article and Source:
Guardianships:  A Broken Trust:  Attorney:  "Courts Have Allowed This Culture"
Judge Colin
Elizabeth Savitt

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lita: A Loving Tribute

A loving daughter's beautiful tribute of the life of Carmen Tozzo Hernandez ("Lita") a victim of unlawful and abusive guardianship in the state of Florida.  Lita is gone too soon but will live in the hearts and minds of her family.

Lita - A Loving Tribute

CBS, Viacom Accused of Hiding Sumner Redstone’s ‘Incapacity’ in Lawsuit

Shareholder E.F. Greenberg wants a judge to order Viacom and CBS to disclose the mental and physical capacity of the 92-year-old billionaire

A shareholder of Viacom and CBS has filed a suit accusing the companies and chairman Sumner Redstone of hiding his “mental and physical incapacity.”

Shareholder E.F. Greenberg wants a judge to order the boards of Viacom and CBS to disclose the mental and physical capacity of the 92-year-old billionaire. Greenberg also seeks repayments from Redstone and his daughter, Shari Redstone, “to the extent that each has been unjustly enriched by their and their colleagues’ wrongful conduct.”

The suit claimed that members of the boards “put the interests of the Redstones before the interests of each company.”

Viacom has repeatedly denied any claims that call Redstone’s mental well-being into question, and a company spokesman said Tuesday that the lawsuit was without merit. “We intend to contest it vigorously,” he said.

Richard Greenfield, the lawyer representing Greenberg, declined to characterize to TheWrap how many shares his client holds in either CBS or Viacom.

The case stems from a proceeding filed by Redstone’s one-time companion, Manuela Herzer, who is seeking to be reinstated as the steward of his care should he become incapacitated. Her suit, and her claims that Redstone is unable to follow conversations and sign his own name, have been rejected by Redstone’s lawyers. They say she is trying to insinuate herself into his estate after she was removed from it in October.

Herzer’s lawyer, Pierce O’Donnell, said in a statement that the new suit was “the inevitable result of the unlawful, orchestrated campaign to cover up Mr. Redstone’s lack of mental capacity and failing health.”

Full Article & Source:
CBS, Viacom Accused of Hiding Sumner Redstone’s ‘Incapacity’ in Lawsuit

14 Lies That Our Psychiatry Professors in Medical School Taught Us

Dr. Gary Kohls
Myth # 1:

“The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) tests all new psychiatric drugs”

False. Actually the FDA only reviews studies that were designed, administered, secretly performed and paid for by the multinational profit-driven drug companies. The studies are frequently farmed out by the pharmaceutical companies by well-paid research firms, in whose interest it is to find positive results for their corporate employers. Unsurprisingly, such research policies virtually guarantee fraudulent results.
Myth # 2:

“FDA approval means that a psychotropic drug is effective long-term”

False. Actually, FDA approval doesn’t even mean that psychiatric drugs have been proven to be safe – either short-term or long-term! The notion that FDA approval means that a psych drug has been proven to be effective is also a false one, for most such drugs are never tested – prior to marketing – for longer than a few months (and most psych patients take their drugs for years). The pharmaceutical industry pays many psychiatric “researchers” – often academic psychiatrists (with east access to compliant, chronic, already drugged-up patients) who have financial or professional conflicts of interest – some of them even sitting on FDA advisory committees who attempt to “fast track” psych drugs through the approval process. For each new drug application, the FDA only receives 1 or 2 of the “best” studies (out of many) that purport to show short-term effectiveness. The negative studies are shelved and not revealed to the FDA. In the case of the SSRI drugs, animal lab studies typically lasted only hours, days or weeks and the human clinical studies only lasted, on average, 4- 6 weeks, far too short to draw any valid conclusions about long-term effectiveness or safety!

Hence the FDA, prescribing physicians and patient-victims should not have been “surprised” by the resulting epidemic of SSRI drug-induced adverse reactions that are silently plaguing the nation. Indeed, many SSRI trials have shown that those drugs are barely more effective than placebo (albeit statistically significant!) with unaffordable economic costs and serious health risks, some of which are life-threatening and known to be capable of causing brain damage.
Myth # 3:

 “FDA approval means that a psychotropic drug is safe long-term”

False. Actually, the SSRIs and the “anti-psychotic” drugs are usually tested in human trials for only a couple of months before being granted marketing approval by the FDA. And the drug companies are only required to report 1 or 2 studies (even if many other studies on the same drug showed negative, even disastrous,  results). Drug companies obviously prefer that the black box and fine print warnings associated with their drugs are ignored by both consumers and prescribers. One only has to note how small the print is on the commercials.

In our fast-paced shop-until-you-drop consumer society, we super-busy prescribing physicians and physician assistants have never been fully aware of the multitude of dangerous, potentially fatal adverse psych drug effects that include addiction, mania, psychosis, suicidality, worsening depression, worsening anxiety, insomnia, akathisia, brain damage, dementia, homicidality, violence, etc, etc.
But when was the last time anybody heard the FDA or Big Pharma apologize for the damage they did in the past? And when was the last time there were significant punishments (other than writs slaps and “chump change” multimillion dollar fines) or prison time for the CEOs of the guilty multibillion dollar drug companies?  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
14 Lies That Our Psychiatry Professors in Medical School Taught Us

Companionship For Older-Adult Patients

By David Reuben, M.D. - Special the The Mirror

Hospitals can be lonely places for patients, especially older adults who may have few if any family members or friends living nearby to visit them.

That’s why the UCLA Geriatrics Program has launched a Companion Care Program for their inpatient Geriatrics Unit at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica. Under this program, specially trained volunteers provide individualized companionship to older patients while they are hospitalized.

Typical activities provided by these companions, who are identifiable in the hospital by their bright green polo shirts, include reading, playing games, assisting with feeding and accompanying patients on walks under a nurse’s supervision.

Geriatric companions also help interested patients tell their life story through the “Living History Program,” a process designed to improve the connection between caregivers and patients by encouraging patients to share life experiences.

To date, the hospital has recruited more than 50 volunteers to serve as geriatric companions. Eventually, they hope to have about 200 companions on board to work in four-hour shifts from 7am to 11 pm daily. Anyone 18 years or older can become a companion.

If you would like to volunteer, or for more information, please email Christy Lau,, or call her at 310.312.0531.

The Companion Care Program was made possible through the vision and generosity of the Samuel Steinberg Family Foundation. UCLA Geriatrics is extremely grateful for its support.

Dr. David Reuben is chief of the highly-regarded UCLA Geriatrics Program in Santa Monica and Westwood.

Full Article & Source:
Companionship For Older-Adult Patients

Monday, January 25, 2016

State Guardianship Commission meets again

Abuse, isolation, exploitation, lack of oversight.

That's what Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears uncovered in her ongoing investigation of the guardianship system.

The Nevada Supreme Court created a state commission to address those problems after we exposed private guardians double-dipping clients and homes being sold without court approval.

The commission's first meeting of this year on Friday was wrought with emotion.

Supreme Court Chief Justice James Hardesty, who chairs the commission, said, "We're going to clean up this mess."

But that was after a tense exchange between one of the vulnerable people the system is supposed to protect and a member of the commission.

"I am confident. I am intelligent and I know my civil rights," says Jason Hanson who was one of the first people we profiled in our investigation.

He spoke Friday about $80,000 his grandmother left for him in a trust.  But he says he hasn't seen a dime.

"I have not received any accounting or information from Elyse Tyrell. It's painful for me to know that Ms. Tyrell is on this commission."

Elyse Tyrell is a lawyer who represents private guardians and was appointed to the State Guardianship Commission. Tyrell said she offered to help Jason for free as trustee of his account but claims Jason failed to show up to meet with her to settle his case.

"I told you out in the hallway, I have a check that's been written for you since March of 2015," Tyrell said to Jason before the commission. "It's in my office. And it's available for you to pick up or I'm still happy to discuss with you about the benefits of the special needs trust."

"What I want to know is why you need someone else to come with you?" Jason demanded to know. "If you wanted to speak to me, why didn't you contact me?"

While Jason is still seeking resolution on his case, there was some good news about progress on other cases announced by Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada.

"Our organization was fortunate enough to receive a grant from a local lawyer who is concerned about the elderly and adults with disabilities in guardianship proceedings," said Barbara Buckley. "...and agreed to fund one attorney to begin providing legal representation to individuals in guardianship."

Buckley says her office has taken on ten cases since just the beginning of this year involving people who want out of guardianships.

Clark County District Court also got a grant to help buy and upgrade software which is supposed to flag cases with concerns and standardize accounting.

Full Article & Source:
State Guardianship Commission meets again

Solution to guardianship crisis? Advocates say cap fees

Despite a new state law and local safeguards, such as a fraud investigator, advocates for guardianship reform say the system remains broken — almost hopelessly so.

Without serious changes, unethical court-appointed guardians and their attorneys can operate with impunity, draining bank accounts of seniors and isolating them from loved ones. And if the judiciary is compromised, there’s no stopping the abuse, advocates say.

Elizabeth Savitt
Solutions are complex but reformers focus on three areas: putting a cap on fees, drafting a type of Bill of Rights for seniors that will give them and their families more say in guardianships and giving the state the power to weed out bad actors. A bill reintroduced in the Legislature for the current session would for the first time give the state real regulatory authority over guardians.

And there’s good reason to reign in the professional guardianship industry in Florida, which saw a boom after the last recession. The number of registered guardians swelled from 108 in 2003 to 457 last year, according to the Department of Elder Affairs.

“Guardianship is a business and it’s a big business and it’s tremendously profitable,” said Dr. Sam Sugar, co-founder of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship.

No amount of legislation will do anything, however, if judges refuse to take advantage of the laws to crack down on unethical guardians.

In The Post’s recent stories about Judge Martin Colin and his wife, guardian Elizabeth “Betsy” Savitt, families of seniors in guardianship say in court documents and interviews with The Post that Savitt took advantage of her position as a guardian. They said the judge’s wife went after the life savings of their loved ones through unnecessary litigation, double-billing and taking fees for herself and her lawyers without prior court approval.

Right now, the Department of Elder Affairs can do little about unscrupulous professional guardians.

“The department does not have any authority over professional guardians,” said spokeswoman Ashley Chambers. “This is a profession that we do not regulate and have no jurisdiction.”

The pending bill seeks to address this. Senate Bill 232, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, would create the Office of Public and Professional Guardians under the Department of Elder Affairs and give it oversight of professional guardians. The executive director would develop and enforce standards for professional guardians.

The office would regularly monitor guardians’ activities and do reviews that are different from the annual financial audits that the Clerk & Comptroller’s Office does. It also would investigate complaints about the guardians. If an investigation finds the complaint is justified, the executive director could discipline the guardians, including revoking their registration, which would make them ineligible for court appointment.

“Somebody has found a cottage industry, and they are not targeting the poor people,” Detert was quoted by The Florida Bar News last year.

Capping fees
But advocates say the reforms need to hit unscrupulous guardians and their attorneys in the pocketbook in order to dampen the current profit motive in guardianships.

Among the most radical solutions proposed in Florida is a constitutional amendment to cap the fees of guardians and especially their attorneys. If guardians can’t keep going back to a seniors’ account for money, they’ll be motivated to block unnecessary legal work and get their own work done more efficiently, advocates say.

Fees for professional guardians are set by the judicial circuit in each county. In Palm Beach County, it ranges from $50 to $95 per hour, guardians told the Post. Attorney fees, though, routinely range from $250 to $450 an hour, and guardianship cases are replete with lawyers.

The guardian, the ward and various family members may all be represented by lawyers who seek to be paid out of the savings of the incapacitated individual. A conference call with all the stakeholders can easily run $1,000 an hour, turning routine matters into a money machine for the lawyers involved.

Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship is considering ways to gather more than 680,000 signatures needed to put such a measure on the ballot to change the Florida Constitution.

“If you have a cap on the fees, there is going to be less guardianships, not as much abuse and the elderly will be able to stay with their families,” said Lidya Abramovici, a co-founder of the Aventura-based group. “That is the way it is in other countries.”

Caps could be fashioned after state laws that limit the amount of money attorneys can collect in medical malpractice cases — possibly 30 percent of the senior’s annual budget or 5 percent of the senior’s assets. The group’s proposal also would limit payments to one attorney, Sugar said.
Some professional guardians, however, striving to do their best for a senior while working with often-conflicting family members, object to the proposal.

Fernando Gutierrez, a director of the GuardianAssociation of Pinellas County, said capping fees would be arbitrary and capricious because fees for guardians vary from county to county.

“Maybe, it’s time for a uniform fee schedule,” he said. “The major drawback to this system is making revisions that reflect fair compensation amounts. Capping guardian fees would make sense, only if a Florida statute would require the chief judges of each district to review and implement new fees every five years.”

Sugar said it is up to the judges and prosecutors, though, to order penalties. “We desperately need prosecution of the worst offenders to set an example and dissuade others,” he said.

Let seniors decide
To offset problems that can arise when a guardian takes charge, a reform gaining national attention is called “supported decision-making.”

It lets seniors decide where they live and how much financial help they need through a type of Bill of Rights. The approach automatically considers alternatives to guardianship, such as giving a family member power of attorney. Texas and other states are considering incorporating the approach into guardianship laws.

Even the United Nations has chimed in, stating, “With supported decision-making, the presumption is always in favor of the person with a disability who will be affected by the decision.”

“It needs to be translated into state legislative statutes,” Sugar said.

But Jetta Getty, former president of the Florida State Guardianship Association, said current laws are enough and that the industry is being unfairly maligned.

“Less than 1 percent of professional guardians have any black marks or infractions,” the Daytona Beach professional guardian said. “This is a judicial problem. I believe statutes already present give the courts full authority to rectify the problems that are being highlighted.”

Local fraud investigator
On a local level, Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller Sharon Bock established a fraud hotline and hired an auditor in 2011 to look into complaints. The clerk’s inspector general audits and investigates professional guardians, non-professional guardians, family members, attorneys, caregivers and anyone else suspected of exploiting a person under guardianship.

Bock’s office says it has investigated more than 900 cases and uncovered more than $4.5 million in questionable expenditures.

“Even a small amount of fraud is really intolerable,” Bock said. “When we get to the point that all guardians are invested in the outcome of protecting the ward, then we have really reached our goal.”

Sugar said he routinely hears complaints from Palm Beach County about professional guardians.

He said it is important for the public to understand that when a senior is put under plenary guardianship that they lose all rights, that they are “dead in the eyes of law.” The guardian can determine where they live, how they spend their money and — most importantly — their medical care.

“It just seems like every day we hear about something more egregious,” said Martha T.S. Laham, author of The Con Game: A Failure of Trust. “It’s a matter of the individual’s basic rights. They strip these from them in a matter of minutes and reduce them to the status of an infant.”

Easy to qualify
Laham, a professor at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif., said some states are toughening qualification standards for guardians. Savitt was a tennis pro and became a guardian after 40 hours of training, a test and a credit and criminal background check.

Guardians need to be monitored much more strictly. Judges need to look at the credentials of guardians prior to appointment and then follow up to make sure the senior’s finances aren’t being abused, she said.

There are ways for families and seniors to protect themselves from falling prey to predatory guardianship. That is to set up a defined power-of-attorney and pre-need directives for the senior long before senility sets in. Some advocates claim that such planning would eliminate the need for guardianships for the vast majority of seniors.

How do these thwart aggressive professional guardians? Families only need to look to the precedent-setting Palm Beach County case of J. Alan Smith recently decided by the 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach.

The appellate court found that Smith’s pre-need directives naming his new wife, Glenda Martinez, his health-care surrogate trumped all of the claims of the guardian and his attorney. The guardian successfully sought to annul the marriage but not the pre-need directive.

“That decision was badly needed in guardianship law here in Florida,” said Martinez’s attorney, Jennifer Carroll. “The personal wishes of the ward somehow disappear over time and become irrelevant in the guardianship proceeding and all the players in the system lose sight of that fundamental principle.”  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Solution to guardianship crisis? Advocates say cap fees

My Motherless Mother

“I need to talk to you,” my 90-year-old mother announced in a stern tone usually reserved for reprimanding a child.

Visiting her in Florida, I noticed increasing balance problems and short-term memory lapses, early signs of Lewy body dementia. She perched on the bench of the organ my father had learned to play in retirement.

And she began to recite, like someone eager to have her past documented by an oral historian:

“I grew up in an orphanage. My mother didn’t want me.”

I froze — eager to listen, afraid of what she’d reveal.

“My father had tuberculosis and went to a sanitarium,” she continued. “After he died, my mother couldn’t afford to keep me at home. I went into the orphanage when I was 18 months old. I stayed until I was 15. Then I moved back home, where I lived until I married Daddy. I resented my mother.”

I was incredulous. At 53, I was hearing details of her past for the first time. She was a widow, recently surviving a heart attack. I was married with a teenage daughter. Mom had always been private, lapsing into Yiddish whenever she didn’t want me to understand. She’d dribbled out a few facts over the years: My grandmother left Russia after a broken love affair, fleeing to Ellis Island at the age of 17 — alone and penniless. My mother was raised in poverty in Jersey City. Occasionally I overheard the word “orphanage” in hushed tones. I didn’t dare to pry. She didn’t invite questions. Until now.

“When I was 7 they brought me into a room in the orphanage and said, ‘These are your older brothers.’ I didn’t even know I had brothers.”

Mother swallowed, took a breath. “My mother was supposed to visit once a month. But months would pass and she wouldn’t show up.” Her lips quivered. “I never had a mother. Never even had a doll.”

Suddenly I realized why she criticized me for buying my daughter too many toys. “Did your mother work?” I asked.

“She was so poor, she made and sold gin during Prohibition.”

No wonder Mother never drank. I started to tremble. As anxious as I felt diving deeper into her past, I knew this might be the only opportunity to discover why she’d been so distant, running away from friendships and intimacy. Her failing health compelled her to share memories of institutionalization with someone who’d remember.

“I’m stronger than you are,” she had often boasted when I was growing up, proud that she never even took a Tylenol. I was a sensitive child. She called my outbursts “crocodile tears.”

Now I watched real tears stream down the cheeks of the stoic stranger who’d never invited me to sit in her lap. Suddenly she hugged me. I could feel her shoulder blades in her diminutive frame. I fell into a back-and-forth rocking rhythm. I’d cradled my daughter — but never the woman who’d given birth to me.

Together we cried, for ourselves and for each other. Our embrace ended awkwardly, as if we’d been caught misbehaving.

“I once told my mother she didn’t love me,” Mother blurted. “She was shocked.”

Avoiding her gaze, I didn’t admit I’d wanted to accuse her of the same thing. As a child I’d often felt neglected, left alone at the age of 8, not understanding why Mom ran off to art classes rather than spend time with me. Chiseling sculptures eased her anxieties. My father called it “nervous energy,” but she was trying to keep the trauma she held inside from exploding. If I disagreed with her, she washed my mouth out with soap. Once she hit my face so hard for speaking back to her, my gums bled. When I wanted to major in journalism, she said, “You don’t have any talent.”

We spent our lives disappointing each other. I yearned for someone to praise and inspire me, but so did she. We both needed a good mother. She was always protecting herself from the scars of her early abandonment.

Now she confessed, “When I put my mother in a home, it was on the same grounds as my orphanage. Imagine how I felt each time I visited.”

I couldn’t. All I remembered was taking my grandmother out for ice cream on Sundays. How could my mother have kept such an anguished secret from me all those years? Not a word during the car ride from Brooklyn to Jersey City and back. As if we were any mother and daughter visiting an octogenarian in any nursing home. My mother had kept her secret from me all these years — until she suspected that soon it might be too late.

“Don’t ever put me in a home,” she said, sounding desperate.

(Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
My Motherless Mother

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Tonight on T.S. Radio: Deborah Goodman: NY Judge Should Not Be on the Bench

Join us this evening as we take a look at another judge in New York that has turned his courtroom into chaos as he forgets his own rulings or even what case he is working on. Guess who pays the price for that?

Deborah Goodman has been subject to the bizarre behavior of Judge Victor J. Alfieri Jr., for more than five years with no relief in sight.

“For his own Standards and Goals he repeatedly removed my case from the court calendar causing motions to be submitted in order to restore my case, which caused unnecessary legal expenses. On December 20, 2013 Honorable Judge Alfieri made a final decision to close my case because he did not like that the case was three years old. His only concern was my case bringing attention from those above him. He said, on the record:

“Now without prejudice to either side, I am going to deny that motion. And I’ll tell you why. I’m going to deny it mostly because of a housekeeping detail. The case is three years old, which will bring note of people above me, as I’m only here by virtue of someone’s signature on an order. I’d like to stay. So I’m going to deny the motion to restore it to the calendar; however, I’m going to do that 30 days from today.”

This was just one of numerous rulings issued by a judge who should not be on the bench. Unfortunately, its all too common in probate and family courts across the country.

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

Guardianships: A Broken Trust, 115 Recusals in Six Months

His wife’s [Elizabeth Savitt] job as a professional guardian leaves Judge Colin compromised, handcuffing him from fully doing his job, The Post found. He’s recused himself from 115 cases that involve his wife’s lawyers in the last six months of 2015 after The Post started asking questions in its investigation.

“When you have a judge suddenly recuse himself of so many cases, it certainly sends up a red flag,” Jarvis said. “How did a judge allow himself to be put in such a position? I have never heard of a judge doing such a thing.”

Elizabeth Savitt
But Judge Colin doesn’t see a problem. Even before his recent mass recusals, he remarked in a court hearing that in the past he had required his wife’s attorneys to tell opposing lawyers that they represented Savitt.

But at least one attorney told The Post that’s not always how it worked. Gary Susser gave an example in which Colin’s disclosure policy fell short, saying he was “floored and shocked” when he found out about the conflict.

Attorney Sheri Hazeltine didn’t tell Susser until April that she works for Savitt, almost a year into a probate case, Susser said.

“She never disclosed her relationship until she was told by Judge Colin to do so,” he said. “It’s a huge concern for me when opposing counsel represents the judge’s wife.”

A transcript of the hearing shows Colin asking Hazeltine to disclose, she does so and then Susser objected to Colin continuing to preside over the case.

“It was news to me what I just found out,” Susser tells Colin.

Colin responds, “OK. That’s why we make what we call a disclosure.”

“Yeah,” Susser responds.

Colin then defends the policy that he would change later in the summer: “Can’t disclose until it’s, you know, ripe to disclose,” he tells Susser.

Colin had the case reassigned to another judge.

The judge spoke to The Post for hours, but because of his position, was limited in what he could say. He would only say on the record that he has dealt with the conflict with his wife properly through established methods.

Guardianships:  A Broken Trust:  115 Recusals

Guardianships: A Broken Trust: Judge's History of Debt, Foreclosures, IRS Liens

Judge Colin,  Elizabeth Savitt's husband
[Judge] Colin and [Elizabeth] Savitt are positioned as the power couple of the lucrative probate arena. Colin’s financial history, however, is littered with debt, including suits for foreclosure on three properties and $65,000 once owed to the IRS for back taxes.

Savitt also had a recent foreclosure on a property. The couple’s financial problems appear to have eased since she became a professional guardian.

Elizabeth Savitt, Judge Colin's wife
Financial records show Savitt’s finances are mainly separate from the judge’s, but it appears the couple has co-mingled finances at least somewhat, West Palm Beach accountant Richard Rampell said. He pointed to a co-signed $30,000 loan from Helen Rich, a Wrigley chewing gum heiress who was a former client of Colin’s when he practiced as a divorce lawyer.

And even with couples who keep their finances separate, there is bound to be overlap, Rampell said.

“It’s very common, especially if one makes more money than other. And even if they say they don’t, they often do,” Rampell.

Full Article and Source:
Guardianships:  A Broken Trust:  Judge's History of Debt, Foreclosures, IRS Liens

Guardianships: A Broken Trust: How Do You Convince a God He's Wrong?

The nation as a whole is beset by unscrupulous guardians, some of whom have been charged with crimes. Florida passed its first effort at reform last legislative session, including applying criminal penalties to guardians found guilty of abuse. Advocates say legislative reform, though, means nothing if judges are complicit in draining the life savings of seniors in guardianships.

Judges like Colin are the main line of defense against guardianship abuse.

Colin, 66, is one of a handful of judges in Palm Beach County Circuit Court who oversee guardians for incapacitated adults. When a senior is found to be incapacitated, they can lose all legal rights to make decisions for themselves. So these judges approve expenditures including fees for the guardian and the guardian’s attorney — again all coming from the senior’s money.

“The problems all arise from the judges and the lawyers and the greed-driven abusive guardians they enable,” said Dr. Sam Sugar, co-founder of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship, which spearheaded the Florida legislation.

“Judges are extremely insulated. They are legal gods who live in a court bubble in which they only believe what their friendly guardians tell them. I mean how do you convince a god that he or she is wrong? It’s a near incestuous fraternity.”

Full Article and Source:
Guardianships:  A Broken Trust:  How Do You Convince a God He's Wrong?