Saturday, April 24, 2021

Larry King’s widow Shawn requests to be estate executor after late host’s ‘secret’ will cut her out

By Julius Young

Larry King’s widow, Shawn King, who was estranged from the television host, has requested to be the executor of his estate despite the fact he cut her out of his will before his death.

The 61-year-old performer filed legal documents in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday and in the paperwork obtained by Fox News, Shawn contested a "secret" handwritten will the late broadcasting legend had penned before his death in January at age 87.

The late host filed to divorce Shawn in August 2019 after 22 years of marriage but it was never finalized. (Greg Doherty/FilmMagic)

In the newly-surfaced will, which was dated October 17, 2019 and came to light after King had died, the venerable personality only mentioned his children and not Shawn – whom he had filed for divorce from in August 2019 after 22 years of marriage.

King indicated that he wished for his $2 million estate to be handed to his kids Andy, Chaia, Larry Jr., Chance and Cannon.

The new will was written prior to the untimely deaths of Andy and Chaia, who died last year within weeks of each other.

A court hearing is slated for May 4 and if approved, would grant Shawn an appointment "as personal representative to administer the estate of the decedent," which was the case in King’s original will dated July 7, 2015.

She also said in February that King had many "outside influences" and that he may not have even been aware he was signing a new will.

Shawn revealed King died of sepsis and not the coronavirus as many had believed as King was diagnosed with the novel illness in the weeks leading up to his death.

Although the actress and King were in the middle of a divorce at the time of his passing, Shawn said King's mind "wasn't right" and his "body was going," noting it was a difficult thing to witness.

She confirmed the pair's divorce was "never finalized."

"In my heart, I didn't think it was really going to happen and it never did. We were partners in every sense of the way, in business, and in, well, first in our familiy and then in business. But we're a close family. You know, family is the most important thing, and God," she said.

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Albany judge was under investigation prior to resignation

Disciplinary commission says William Carter tried to intercede in gun permit application; his lawyer denies it

by Mike Goodwin

When he resigned from office last in March, Albany County Judge William Carter was under investigation for allegedly trying to have a friend's application for a pistol permit assigned to him, according to the state Commission on Judicial Conduct. (Paul Buckowski/Times Union)

ALBANY — When he resigned from office last month, Albany County Judge William Carter was under investigation for allegedly trying to have a friend's application for a pistol permit assigned to him, according to the state Commission on Judicial Conduct.

The commission, whose top administrator called Carter's behavior a violation of judicial ethics, ended the probe after Carter — who had previously been disciplined multiple times by the panel — agreed to leave the bench.

"Judge Carter denied the allegations in the complaint. Nevertheless, he vacated judicial office effective March 30, 2021, and agreed never to seek or accept judicial office at any time in the future," the commission wrote in an announcement made public on Friday.

The commission said it disclosed the investigation to the judge in March after receiving a complaint that, after a friend of Carter's filed for a pistol permit application, the judge attempted to have the application assigned to him and "initiated a conversation about the matter with the judge to whom the case had been assigned."

The identity of the friend was not released by the commission. Carter did not return a call for comment on Friday.

“A judge is ethically prohibited from exerting the influence of judicial office for the personal benefit of others," Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian said in a prepared statement Friday. "The complaint that Judge Carter did so as to a gun permit application was serious. In view of his having been censured twice and cautioned twice before for misconduct, it is well that he chose to resign and agreed never to return to the bench.”

The investigation had not come to light when the 61-year-old judge announced in March that he planned to leave the bench at the end of that month. At the time he announced his retirement, Carter said he started the retirement process in January. He said he was considering retiring in September, when he turns 62.

"On many days, working through the pandemic, I felt like I was already retired," Carter said. Last spring, coronavirus forced the state to close its courts. Once they reopened, surges in cases twice prompted postponement of jury trials.

Calling the matter "a complete misunderstanding," Carter's attorney Stephen Downs said the investigation was not the primary reason for the judge's decision to retire.

"He was planning to retire already, and I think this pushed it ahead a little bit so he didn't have to spend time on it," said Downs, who insisted Carter did not discuss the gun case with another judge but rather mentioned it in the clerk's office.

Downs also disputed the commission's characterization of Carter's relationship with the permit applicant as a friendship. He said they knew each other in grade school and had "spoken maybe twice in 50 years." He declined to disclose the friend's name.

Tembeckjian offered a brief response to Downs' assertions:

“Had Judge Carter not resigned, the commission’s investigation would have continued, and I believe the facts would have been different than what his spokesman is suggesting," he said.

The disclosure of the investigation came as a shock inside the county courthouse where several people said they found Carter's retirement abrupt but that it came with no hint he faced a new allegation of wrongdoing.

In 2006, the commission censured Carter for leaving the bench to physically confront a defendant in City Court. In 2020, he was censured a second time for improperly engaging in a phone conversation with a sheriff’s deputy who was set to testify before the judge the next day in a pre-trial hearing in a murder case.

The commission said Carter was privately cautioned — a lesser sanction than censure — two times: in 2004 for failing to disqualify himself in arraignments of unrepresented defendants, and in 2012 for appearing as a guest of honor at a fundraising event for a civic group.

Carter, a former state trooper and graduate of Albany Law School on the bar since January 1992, has served as an Albany County assistant district attorney, chief assistant district attorney, assistant attorney general, defense attorney and judge. He has also served as an adjunct Albany Law School professor and was an acting County Court judge handling domestic violence cases.

In January 2002, Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings appointed Carter to the City Court bench, making Carter the first Black judge to serve the city. Carter was re-elected and remained there until 2016, when he was elected to County Court to replace retiring Judge Stephen Herrick, now the county's public defender.

Carter's tenure on the bench has included several disagreements with Albany County District Attorney David Soares' office, including one spat over Soares' decision not to prosecute Occupy Albany protesters that reached the state's highest court.

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Florida woman accused of killing elderly mother who was found wearing garbage bag as diaper

Authorities say feces, urine odor were ‘unbearable’ in home

by Brenda Argueta

Kim Zaheer. (Flagler County Sheriff's Office)
FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – A Flagler County woman is accused of neglecting her elderly mother to the point that the victim was found “extremely malnourished,” covered in her own feces and wearing a garbage bag as a diaper at the time of her death.

The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office said 64-year-old Kim Zaheer called authorities on Dec. 5, 2018, to report her mother was “not breathing,” according to a news release. When they arrived to the Palm Coast home, deputies said 85-year-old Frances King, Zaheer’s mother, looked as if she had not eaten in a long time and there was an “unbearable” odor of feces.

An autopsy performed by the St. John’s County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled King’s death as a homicide by elderly neglect and abuse, according to an arrest affidavit. The report said she was found dead with feces in her bed and wearing a garbage bag as a diaper. The sheriff’s office said accessing documentation to prove King had a “diminished mental capacity” and that her daughter was legally responsible for her care halted the initial investigation.

Zaheer became the primary caregiver for her mother after she moved to Florida in 2011. According to the affidavit, Zaheer stopped taking her mother to the doctor in 2017 and stated she would take her to another doctor, though she could not remember the name of the new doctor when deputies asked. Four days before King’s death, Zaheer told the sheriff’s office her mother would use one-word phrases to communicate and that “she was talking but there was no conversation.”

Records show King’s other daughter would visit the residence, but Zaheer would bring her mother outside in a wheelchair during these visits.

Funeral home employees notified authorities that her death seemed “criminal in nature” after observing rat droppings underneath her body in the home and that her eyes looked “dehydrated back [into] her head,” the report said. One employee said they have never seen someone in the “same or similar” condition to King.

Deputies charged Zaheer with manslaughter of an elderly disabled adult and arrested her Wednesday. She is being held on a $500,000 bond.

This case marks the first solved by the FCSO’s Cold Case Unit that was established summer 2020 to focus on “unsolved sex crimes, missing persons, homicides and any other unsolved violent crime,” according to the sheriff’s office.

“Cases like these and the small list of other unsolved cases of homicides, missing persons, and sex crimes are what led to the creation of the Cold Case Unit,” Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said in a news release. “I am grateful that we were able to arrest the suspect in this case and hopefully this can offer some closure to family and friends of the victim. If you are responsible for a human being’s care you must take care of them. No matter how long it takes we will continue these investigations to hold people accountable for their crimes.”

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Friday, April 23, 2021

NY Pharmacy Owner Admits to Defrauding Medicare, Medicaid of Over $6.5 Million

A New York City woman who owned five pharmacies has admitted to defrauding over $6.5 million from Medicare and Medicaid programs, prosecutors said Wednesday.

File Photo: a pharmacy technician grabs a bottle of drugs off a shelve.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Aleah Mohammed of Queens pleaded guilty to using her pharmacies to claim prescription drugs that weren't dispensed, not prescribed or weren't medically necessary. At times, the scheme would occur when the pharmacy was no longer registered with the State of New York.

The claims at Superdrugs Inc., Superdrugs I Inc., Superdrugs II Inc., S&A Superdrugs II Inc. and Village Stardrugs Inc. began in 2018 until 2020, authorities said. One of the claims included prescription drugs for the treatment of HIV.

Mohammed also admitted to using the money she received to buy a Porsche and other luxury items like jewelry.

She could face up to 40 years in prison for charges that include mail fraud, health care fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

In addition to an expected prison sentence, Mohammed is required to pay $6.5 million in restitution to Medicare and Medicaid and $5.1 million in forfeiture money judgment.

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Justices publicly reprimand Greenfield, Indianapolis lawyers

The Indiana Supreme Court has handed down public reprimands against two Indianapolis-area attorneys, including an action against a partner at a major law firm.

The justices on Monday issued the reprimands against Jeffrey D. McClarnon of Greenfield and Dave C. Bromund of Indianapolis.

McClarnon, a solo practitioner, was disciplined for his actions in a guardianship case. In December 2019, he was representing a paternal grandmother seeking guardianship following a father’s death.

McClarnon filed for emergency custody, but the mother’s counsel objected. The trial court denied the petition on Dec. 4.

Meanwhile, McClarnon on Dec. 3 also had filed a petition for emergency ex parte custody in a separate pre-existing paternity case. The petition did not contain a certificate of service or comply with notice requirements, and neither mother nor her counsel appeared at a Dec. 5 hearing.

The paternity court granted the emergency petition on Dec. 6, but mother’s counsel obtained a change of judge and filed a motion to correct error. A successor judge held a hearing in early 2020, when McClarnon’s appearance on the grandmother’s behalf was ordered withdrawn.

McClarnon and the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission agreed that he violated three Rules of Professional Conduct:

  • Rule 3.5(b), engaging in an improper ex parte communication with a judge.
  • Rule 8.4(d), engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
  • Rule 8.4(f), assisting a judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct or other law.

McClarnon was assessed $270.85 for the costs of the proceeding — $20.85 payable to the commission and $250 payable to the clerk of the court. Hearing officer expenses will be submitted separately in the case of In the Matter of: Jeffrey D. McClarnon, 20S-DI-698.

Admitted to the Indiana bar in 1992, McClarnon has one prior discipline case, according to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys.

Bromund, a partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, was reprimanded in connection with his representation of a doctor and surgery group.

Specifically, Bromund represented “Dr. T,” the leader of a surgical group that in 2007 incorporated an institute to manage a health system’s surgery program. Dr. T was chief medical officer for the institute, making him responsible for matters of compensation.

Also in 2007, the institute, health system and an affiliated medical school executed a collaboration agreement, with each party to the agreement represented by separate counsel. The agreement was subject to the provision of other agreements executed by the parties, including an “MMSA” between the institute and Dr. T. and a “PTSA” between the institute and the surgical group.

After the agreement was executed, Bromund became outside counsel for the institute.

All of the surgeons later became employees of a separate entity known as USI, so the surgical group assigned the PTSA to USI. Then in 2015, Dr. T. announced that he would move his practice out of state and was willing to settle with the institute for $1 million in back pay. Dr. T consulted with Bromund as the institute’s counsel, and Bromund advised that Dr. T. had authority to make the payment and the health system did not have the authority to block the payment.

However, when Dr. T attempted to transfer $1 million from the institute to USI, the health system blocked the transfer. While Bromund could not represent Dr. T individually, he offered to help the institute resolve its dispute with the health system. Dr. T retained separate counsel, but he did not sign a conflict waiver for Bromund.

Bromund then drafted a demand letter for Dr. T to the institute and USI in an attempt to “persuade Health System to bless the $1 million settlement.” Dr. T gave a draft of the letter to his counsel, who finalized and sent it.

“Respondent took no action on behalf of USI after USI received the letter. Dr. T never sought permission from Institute’s Board for Respondent to send the demand letter, and Health System never sought permission from the Board to block payment. After negotiations between Health System and Dr. T were unsuccessful, the dispute was submitted to arbitration. Respondent did not represent Dr. T or Institute in the negotiations or arbitration,” according to the Monday reprimand order.

The parties agreed that Bromund violated two Rules of Professional Conduct: Rule 1.7(a) for representing a client when the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest, and Rule 1.9(a) for representing a client in a matter in which the client’s interests are materially adverse to the interests of a former client without the former client’s informed consent.

The costs of the proceeding were assessed against Bromund, though the order did not specify those costs.

All justices concurred in In the Matter of David C. Bromund, 20S-DI-708, except Justice Geoffrey Slaughter, formerly a Taft partner, who did not participate.

Bromund was admitted to the Indiana bar in 1988 and has no prior discipline.

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Woman placed on probation in exploitation case

A local woman has been ordered to serve three years of supervised probation for exploiting an elderly Meeteetse resident in 2019.

Tristen Brewer, 25, reportedly had been serving as the caretaker of a 69-year-old man who, according to authorities, was unable to care for himself. However, when personnel from the Park County Sheriff’s Office and the Wyoming Department of Family Services visited the man’s home in the summer of 2019, they found him in poor health and the house in disarray. Deputies also gathered evidence indicating that Brewer had used his funds to make purchases without his permission.

As part of a deal with prosecutors, Brewer pleaded guilty to a felony count of exploiting a vulnerable adult, which related to the misuse of the man’s money. She also agreed to pay $656.99 in restitution.

Meanwhile, with the approval of the victim in the case, prosecutors dropped a second count, alleging Brewer had failed to provide adequate care, and stipulated to a sentence of probation.

At a Thursday sentencing hearing, both Brewer’s court-appointed defense attorney and the prosecutor said she has made significant changes in her life over the past year-and-a-half.

“Obviously this is a serious offense but … she has clearly rehabilitated herself,” said Deputy Park County Attorney Jack Hatfield. He said the offense was clearly based on Brewer’s drug use at the time — and now she is sober.

Hatfield went as far as to say that, assuming she successfully completes probation, he hopes Brewer seeks a pardon from the governor to remove the felony conviction from her record.

A probation and parole agent who compiled a pre-sentence report had explicitly concluded that Brewer was an appropriate candidate for probation and was at low-risk for reoffending — something public defender Branden Vilos called a rarity.

In representing her over the past year, Vilos personally attested that the transformation Brewer has made in her life has been “unreal.” 

“‘I know that if the court provides her with this opportunity with this probation, that she will be successful,” Vilos said. “I know she will be.”

Brewer had effectively no prior criminal offenses on her record when authorities visited the Meeteetse residence in the summer of 2019. When Deputy Rob Cooke entered, he noticed the strong smell or urine, along with sticky floors, dog feces all over the basement from Brewer’s dog, a dirty stove, cluttered countertops and trash everywhere, court records say.

The Department of Family Services had visited the home multiple times over a period of several years out of concern the man wasn’t taking care of himself, including earlier in 2019. However, the man had declined any assistance until the visit on July 1. When he requested medical help, it was “a definite [change] from previous encounters,” Cooke wrote.

Authorities say the man had lost a significant amount of weight since the last visit and had little food, while his fingernails had grown so long they were growing into the palm of his hand, according to charging documents.

The man was taken to Cody Regional Health by ambulance, where he was found to be dehydrated, malnourished and suffering from bed sores. The man was subsequently admitted to the hospital, where his health improved.

Brewer reportedly told the sheriff’s office she’d been taking care of the man for roughly a year in exchange for getting a place to live. However, the man — who was unable to get up on his own — told a deputy that “he felt like she [Brewer] put him on the back burner when she got busy with other things,” charging documents say.

Beyond there being little food in the home, authorities found some of the man’s bills had gone unpaid; they also identified some unauthorized charges and learned Brewer was in charge of the man’s checkbook.

However, at a preliminary hearing in October 2019, Brewer’s then-defense attorney questioned the evidence tying her to the purchases and whether she was the one responsible for taking care of the man; at the hearing, Deputy Cooke indicated another person had been helping.

In an interview, Vilos said investigators found evidence indicating that the person — who has not been charged — used the man’s debit card without permission. In court, Vilos called it a “very complicated case,” saying there were “a lot of different factors involved.”

However, rather than go to trial, Brewer “wanted to take responsibility for her involvement in this case,” Vilos said, “and I think that speaks volumes about this.”

District Court Judge Bobbi Overfield accepted the plea deal, suspending two to four years of prison time in favor of the probation. Brewer also received credit for the month-and-a-half she served in jail following her initial arrest, while being ordered to pay $260 in court fines and fees.

While on probation, Brewer will be required to follow a lengthy list of conditions, including some related to avoiding drugs and alcohol.

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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Michigan woman says she wrongly lost guardianship of mother before her death

By: Heather Catallo

(WXYZ) — When a court appoints a guardian, you can no longer make your own legal or medical decisions.

For years, the 7 Investigators have been exposing guardianship cases where families say their loved ones were wrongly taken from them.

Ernestine Drayton’s family just filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court, alleging negligence from the court-appointed guardian who was legally in charge of their mom and the nursing home where she was staying before she died.

“We didn’t even get to make it back. We didn’t get to say anything to her,” said Chandra Drayton about the final moments of Ernestine’s life.

Chandra says the sad story begins in February of 2018 after Ernestine had some trouble breathing so Chandra took her to Detroit Receiving hospital. While the 58-year-old was in the hospital, Chandra says an Adult Protective Services (APS) worker suddenly started calling her.

“I got a phone call from a lady being very hostile, wanting to have medical records, wanting to have financial information. And she told me her name was Tresna Tupper,” said Chandra.

Chandra says Tupper told her she had to send her mother to Ambassador Rehabilitation nursing home in Detroit.

“It was basically put up on me that if I didn’t send my mom right then, I was neglecting her, like keeping her from her care,” said Chandra.

So Chandra sent her mom to the nursing home, and says she visited her regularly, even though she was commuting back and forth from her home in Tennessee. But within weeks, she says, things got weird.

Chandra says she received a call from a lawyer telling her there was a court hearing the next day in Wayne County Probate Court.

“I’m like 'that’s definitely not happening. I’m out of town right now, and I won’t be there, and no one’s taking guardianship over my mom,'” said Chandra.

Chandra says she didn’t realize that Tupper had petitioned the court to have Ernestine declared mentally incapacitated, and that Tupper had nominated a professional guardian to be put in charge of Ernestine’s medical decisions.

Chandra says she sent relatives to the courthouse – but they were told there was no hearing. Yet according to the lawsuit Chandra filed, the court docket later shows that a judge appointed Stacy White-Smith’s WhiteHouse Guardian Service.

“This woman started threatening that I would never see my mother again, if I didn’t cooperate with her,” said Chandra.

If these names sound familiar, it’s because we’ve told you about Tupper and White-Smith before.

Back in 2019, we showed you how Tupper petitioned the court to put Detroit grandmother Bessie Owens, against her will, under guardianship with White-Smith.

In Tupper’s guardianship petition for Chandra’s mother, she told the court an APS case alleging neglect had been opened against Ernestine’s daughters in Tennessee in 2017. Chandra denies that, and documents obtained by the 7 investigators show the Michigan APS investigation into Ernestine is full of inconsistent information – calling the case both “substantiated” and “unsubstantiated.”

Tupper also said under penalty of perjury in the petition that Ernestine had been in a car accident, and that her brother was trying to move her from the hospital due to a pending lawsuit. But Chandra says there was no accident and Ernestine’s brother has been dead since 2011.

Yet the probate court approved the guardianship based on Tupper’s petition.

“They’ve been filing petitions for people and families are not notified. I mean, nobody is aware of it! It’s insane,” said Tina Lindsay, a court watcher and advocate of guardianship reform in Michigan. “We need change here.”

Chandra says she later learned Detroit Police had to be called after another resident at the nursing home tried to smother her mom with a pillow. In her lawsuit, Chandra claims the nursing home did little to help Ernestine when her health declined after that.

Chandra also alleges in the lawsuit that Stacy White-Smith put a Do Not Resuscitate order in place when Ernestine died a few months later.

“So I told that lady [White-Smith], 'I don’t care if they have to crack my mom’s chest open, and somebody sit on her, trying to bring her back – do it!!' She was like 'I’m just telling you that’s a waste of the state’s money,'” said Chandra through tears. “We got to the hospital, we were talking to the doctor – he said 'yeah, this lady says she’s your mom’s guardian, and she told us Do Not Resuscitate.'”

Ernestine Drayton died on May 8, 2018. That’s why Chandra is now suing White-Smith and Ambassador Rehabilitation for $10 million.

“At this juncture we have no choice but to go ourselves and file our own lawsuit,” said Rohl.

Wayne County Probate Court officials say Stacey White-Smith is no longer seeking guardianship appointments.

White-Smith told us she never met with Ernestine Drayton while she was her guardian because she alleges Ernestine’s daughters removed her from the nursing home. White-Smith did not provide documentation to us to confirm that. She also denied putting the DNR in place and said she honored the family’s wishes.

Tupper retired from APS after our first two stories on her. She has not returned our phone calls or attempts to reach her at her home to comment on this. The parent company of Ambassador says they can’t talk about this because these events occurred before they operated the nursing home, and they have not responded to requests for comment on the lawsuit. 
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Custody or Captivity? Britney Spears and the Problem with California’s Conservatorship Laws

Britney Spears performing at her Piece of Me residency in Las Vegas in 2014. By Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By Zachary J. Lech

“Britney Spears hospitalized again”, “Britney on 72-Hour Mental Lockdown”, “Diagnosing Britney Spears,” “Sources: Spears suffering from bipolar disorder.” These news headlines from early 2008 covered the public struggle which, on Feb. 1 of that year, led a California court to hand over control of Britney Spears’ life and finances to her father, Jamie.

Conservatorships are a legal concept governed by state law whereby a court appoints a person or organization called a conservator to care for another person, a conservatee, who is deemed incapable of caring for themselves or their financial affairs. The state of California, in particular, differentiates between the so-called Lanterman-Petris-Short conservatorships (used for individuals with serious mental illness who need special care) and probate conservatorship, which can be either temporary or permanent and covers the person’s life, estate, or both.

When a judge made Britney Spears’ controversial probate conservatorship permanent after eight months, People magazine ran quotes from sources that stated, “This is by no means something that’s going to last forever” and that “People shouldn’t read too much into the word ‘permanent’.” Now in 2021, with the #FreeBritney movement growing, The New York Times’ “Framing Britney Spears” documentary coming out, and the next hearing in the ongoing legal battle scheduled for Apr. 27, one thing seems clear. What was expected to be a temporary arrangement turned into a 13-year-long conservatorship that has left Britney Spears with no legal control over her finances and limited control over her personal life.

What that means in practice is that Britney Spears needs her father’s approval for the most mundane things, be it a purchase of a hypothetical caramel frappuccino or a slightly less hypothetical iPhone, which the singer with a $60 million dollar net worth was actually denied until 2019. That on its own wouldn’t be a problem, however. If Britney’s conservatorship were a typical case, it would be clear why she shouldn’t be allowed to spend her money. Permanent conservatorships are restricted to incapacitated individuals, unable to manage their lives, usually the elderly or people suffering from untreatable mental illness or extensive dissability. Spears’ case is anything but typical, though. “From the little I saw and have seen of Britney Spears, there's no way she would, in my mind, qualify for conservatorship under normal circumstances,” said Don Slater, a California attorney specializing in conservatorships, in an interview with Vice.

Indeed, it’s hard to understand how Spears’ conservatorship has lasted so long, as she clearly is and has been well enough to continue working. In the past 13 years, Britney Spears has done everything from being a judge on “The X Factor” and releasing three new albums to raising a million dollars for the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation and engaging in social activism landed her an award from GLAAD in 2018.

Unfortunately, it’s easier to understand why the arrangement is still in place despite doubts over its ethics. While there are legal avenues for the conservatee to end or change the conservatorship by filing a motion in court, these avenues are useless in practice while the arrangement continues. Conservatorship takes away an individual’s right to enter contracts. This might sound innocent enough, but it means that the conservatee cannot hire an attorney without a court’s express permission. In Britney’s case, that meant an uphill legal battle against her father, who controlled her money, just to be able to get a lawyer to represent her. And that has only been the beginning of a long fight. Samuel Ingham, Spears’ court-appointed attorney, sued seeking to replace Jamie Spears as the conservator on Aug. 17, 2020, and there’s still no resolution on the horizon.

“Wouldn’t it be something if the giants of mental health care reform in California turned out to be three men named Lanterman, Petris and Short — and a pop singer by the name of Britney Spears?” asked Patt Morrison in his LA Times article, wondering if the singer’s case could be the push needed to change California’s flawed conservatorship laws. Nothing has come to pass yet. But perhaps now, 13 years after Morrison's piece was originally published, and with more public attention than ever, Britney Spears’ lawsuit could change more than just her conservator: It might impact a California law that can turn custody into captivity with almost no way of regaining control.

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CalPERS Sues Former Employee Over Stolen Pension Money

The alleged victims of the $685,000 theft include a homeless retiree and several who are under legal conservatorship.

The California State Capitol building. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

by Will Feuer

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is suing a former employee who is accused of stealing more than $685,000 from the dormant pension accounts of 10 retirees, court filings show.

The victims include a homeless retiree, CalPERS said in a court filing, as well as several who are under conservatorship, meaning a judge has appointed someone to oversee their financials due to mental or physical disability.  

The $460 billion pension fund filed the suit in the California Superior Court in Sacramento on Friday, the court documents show. It is suing Gloria Najera, a 25-year veteran of CalPERS and former associate governmental program analyst, “to recover the stolen funds,” CalPERS said in the complaint.

CalPERS said Najera stole more than $685,600 from 10 retiree accounts that were dormant, meaning payments have been returned as undeliverable. “CalPERS repeatedly attempts to locate these members and beneficiaries,” the retirement system said in the court filing.

The alleged fraud, which CalPERS said it discovered during an investigation that began in January, occurred between July 2017 and January 2021. CalPERS said Najera is no longer employed there and that the system is performing a “forensic audit.” 

CalPERS said it will “make all breached member accounts whole” and has notified everyone affected by the alleged fraud. CalPERS has since implemented a new policy, which requires three levels of security, CEO Marcie Frost said Monday in an email to members that was obtained by Institutional Investor.

“That this could have happened in the first place is unacceptable, and the employee is no longer employed by CalPERS,” Frost said in the email. “The employee’s actions were an abuse of access, breach of fiduciary responsibility, and betrayal of co-workers and all dedicated public employees. We are extremely disappointed, because we take our commitment to member security so seriously.”

CalPERS alleged in the court filing that Najera used the stolen funds to pay off her own credit card debts as well as the debt of her husband, daughter, and another family member. The alleged victims include one person who CalPERS believes is homeless as well as three who are under conservatorship. Four others are under power of attorney, CalPERS said, including one who lives in a care facility. 

“CalPERS will exhaust every legal opportunity to recover the money stolen from the victims,” Frost told members in the email.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

How Britney Spears is helping Australians clear their debt (no, really)

What we should learn from #FreeBritney. 
by Alley Pascoe

As the #FreeBritney movement rages in the US, everyday Australians are taking notice of the guardianship system here. What can we learn from the pop singer’s fight to take back control of not just her finances, but also her life?

At first, it might be difficult to see the similarities between Britney Spears and Monique Beach.

One is an international superstar who lives in a multi-million-dollar mansion in California. The other is a 48-year-old mother-of-two from Yetman in rural New South Wales, who lives in a small two-bedroom home with a black-mould problem and holes in the bathroom floor.

But each woman is fighting the same battle: for control, independence and autonomy over their finances – and their lives.

Beach’s struggle started a decade ago, when she left a bad relationship and voluntarily entered a financial management order. At the time, she tells Body+Soul, she was depressed, traumatised from the relationship and unable to cope with the pressure of paying off an ex’s debts.

“It was clear I needed help, and someone suggested the [state] might be able to stop all the harassing phone calls, make sure my bills were paid and that my electricity didn’t get cut off. It sounded like a great idea, so I signed the paperwork,” says Beach.

Conservatorship – known as enduring guardianship or financial management in Australia – has made international headlines of late with the release of the Framing Britney Spears documentary and the pop star’s court battle with her father Jamie over control of her finances.

Spears, 39, has been under conservatorship since 2008, following what was described at the time as a breakdown. Late last year, she requested that Jamie be removed from the conservatorship, with her lawyers stating she was “scared” of him.

The case is ongoing – and has people asking: if a person with Spears’ fame, wealth and support is unable to argue she’s capable of making her own financial decisions – despite releasing four albums, completing a four-year Las Vegas residency and appearing as a judge on The X-Factor while under conservatorship – what hope do everyday people have?

“The story of Britney Spears has caught people’s attention, but they don’t realise the extent to which it is happening here in Australia,” says Lucy Williams*, who went to court in March to keep her daughter out of the guardianship system.

“[My daughter] was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2015 and was living in a group home last year when Queensland Mental Health [Commission] submitted an application for public guardianship of her – despite her telling them she didn’t want that.”

In Australia, the state can apply for guardianship for people who can no longer make health and welfare decisions for themselves. They can also put in place a financial management order if a person is unable to look after their finances.

Between 2019 and 2020 in New South Wales, there were 4,014 applications for guardianship and 3,335 for financial management.

Of those cases, the majority were for reasons to do with dementia, intellectual disability and mental illness, with only a small percentage due to alcohol and drug abuse. For the financial management orders put in place, 48 per cent were awarded to private financial managers (who can be family members or friends) and 52 per cent went to the NSW Trustee and Guardian office.

When Beach handed her finances over to the public trustee in 2010, it was out of sheer desperation. Now after 10 years of mismanagement, condescension and gaslighting, she says she’s been left even more desperate.

“I was surviving on $200 a fortnight and was forced to beg for extra funds when I needed a pair of shoes or urgent home maintenance,” explains Beach, who says the state threatened to sell her house a number of times.

“When I needed to get my car fixed, they told me I didn’t have enough money and suggested I catch the bus. I live in a village with less than 200 people – there are no buses.”

Dr Alexis Whitton, a Research Fellow and Psychologist at The Black Dog Institute and UNSW, says financial management orders (which can be overseen by family members, friends or the public trustee) should be a last resort.

“Having financial independence taken away can be difficult and disempowering,” she explains. “There has to be very strong evidence that a person with a mental illness requires either a guardian or a financial management order, over informal decision-making support from family, friends, social workers or healthcare professionals. It needs to be in the person’s best interests.”

Williams strongly disagreed that guardianship was in her daughter’s best interests, and she had to plead her case in front of a magistrate.

“My daughter comes from a close knit and supportive family, so there was no need for her to be under public guardianship and lose control of her decision-making power,” she explains.

According to Whitton, a person under guardianship or financial management can apply at any time to have their case reviewed, though the orders do tend to be lasting.

A 2015 Senate inquiry heard guardians sometimes block access to lawyers and advocates and may prevent a vulnerable person from making a complaint. A common criticism of the system is that it’s too controlling of the minute details of peoples’ lives and overly penny-pinching with their finances.

Between 2019 and 2020, there were 700 requests for review of financial management orders in NSW. One of those requests was from Beach.

After years of tears, stress and “bullying,” Beach started the process to regain control of her finances two years ago, with the help of her solicitor friend Judy Scrivener.

On December 11 2020, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal lifted Beach’s financial management order, giving her financial autonomy for the first time in a decade. “It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders,” she tells Body+Soul.

It should have been a happy ending, but Beach is still dealing with the lasting effects of her ordeal. While putting together all the paperwork for the financial management review, Scrivener uncovered a costly mistake: the public trustee had failed to make debt repayments on a loan for several years, resulting in more than $6000 in interest and fees.

Scrivener applied for a debt waiver, which was granted at the start of the year. “In Monique’s case, her finances were completely mismanaged, and the public trustee failed in their duty. There needs to be an independent inquiry to make sure other families aren’t suffering,” she says.

Williams agrees there needs to be an investigation into the billion-dollar industry that tried to unnecessarily take away her daughter’s autonomy.

“When it comes to deciding someone’s fate, that call should be made independently without any bias from organisations that are set to gain financially from public guardianship,” says Williams, who was successful in court. “The magistrate found that [my daughter] had the capacity to make her own choices. And when she said the word, ‘capacity’, I threw my hands in the air [with relief].”

Back in control of her own life, Beach is still saving up to have the holes in her bathroom floor fixed.

From the outskirts of Yetman – which she describes as the “very end of the Earth” – she keeps Spears in her thoughts. “I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone,” she says earnestly. “I hope she has someone like Judy in her corner. I couldn’t have done it without her.”

If you or anyone you know is suffering mental or emotional hardship, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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Former Española court clerk says judge fired him for balking at misdeeds

By Phaedra Haywood

A former Española Municipal Court clerk has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the city, contending he was fired for objecting to unlawful conduct by his boss at the time, former Municipal Judge Stephen Salazar.

Salazar recently resigned and agreed never to work as a judge again to avoid further discipline from the state Supreme Court over an incident in which the judge had pushed and spoken angrily to another city worker while at a home improvement store.

The judge had been disciplined for misconduct in the past. The clerk’s lawsuit says Salazar regularly bent the rules to serve his own purposes.

Joseph Madrid Jr. worked as a clerk under Salazar from 2015 until 2019, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in state District Court. During that time, the lawsuit alleges, he witnessed multiple actions by Salazar that made him uncomfortable.

Salazar did not respond to a message seeking comment Friday. Española City Manager Xavier Martinez said he hadn’t seen the lawsuit and couldn’t comment.

One instance of inappropriate behavior involved a cousin of Salazar’s by marriage, the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit, Madrid said he recognized the man’s name on a criminal complaint and asked the judge if he should prepare recusal paperwork because he knew the judge had recused himself from presiding over the man’s cases in the past due to the familial relationship.

But in this instance, the lawsuit says, Salazar told him not to prepare the paperwork, adding he would be the judge on the case.

When Madrid asked the judge why he wasn’t recusing himself as he had in the past, Salazar told him it was “a favor to family,” the lawsuit says.

When Madrid objected, Salazar repeated he’d handle the case and asked Madrid to do as he was told.

The lawsuit also said that over the next few years, Salazar’s wife’s cousin was a party in other cases and Salazar did not recuse himself.

Madrid’s lawsuit also claimed Salazar suspended him without pay for a day and a half after a mixup regarding his rescheduling of several trials.

Madrid believed the discipline was unwarranted, his lawsuit says, “since he was following the verbal instructions of the judge.”

In the lawsuit, Madrid says he told co-workers and his father, Rio Arriba County Magistrate Judge Joseph Madrid, he felt Salazar was not following court rules, and in April 2019, while serving his suspension from work, he told a co-worker he was considering talking to a reporter about Salazar.

Later that month, Madrid’s lawsuit says, Salazar fired him and told him his comments to others, particularly about going to the press, were the basis for his termination.

Madrid said Salazar read him the termination letter in front of a human resources director but failed to read the last line of the letter, which gave Madrid the option of resigning as opposed to being fired, the lawsuit contends.

Had he known that was an option, Madrid’s lawsuit says, he would have resigned in order to preserve a good employment record with the city.

Madrid is seeking an unspecified amount of damages, plus legal costs.

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US workers who risked their lives to care for elderly demand change

Nursing home and home care workers worked long days with inadequate protection during the pandemic – now they want better pay and conditions
by Michael Sainato
An LED display at a protest calling on Congress to invest in care jobs in Washington DC last month. Photograph: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for National Domestic Workers Alliance & Service Employees International Union

During the coronavirus pandemic, Shantonia Jackson, a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home in Cicero, Illinois, worked through Covid-19 outbreaks in which more than 250 residents tested positive for the virus, and one of her co-workers and friends passed away along with several residents.

Jackson described working 16-hour days, seven days a week, as dozens of employees were often out sick or in quarantine. Caring for 70 residents at once, she still made time for those she cared for to use her cellphone to make video calls to loved ones they were no longer able to see. Adequate personal protective equipment was a constant issue and concern. At home, Jackson quarantined herself from the rest of her family, only interacting with her daughter through video calls even though they live in the same house.

In November 2020, Jackson and her co-workers went on strike for 12 days during new contract negotiations between management and her union, SEIU, for better pay and improved working conditions.

It took until March 2021 for Jackson, her co-workers, and residents to begin receiving vaccines.

“This industry is broken. Nobody cares about the elderly any more,” said Jackson. “We need to improve the way people perceive home care and nursing home work. There needs to be a big reform, and not letting it be about numbers and greed, not worrying about the head count a facility can get, it should be about proper care.”

Jackson is just one of many workers in the nursing home and home care industries who have held rallies with labor unions and organizations pushing for systemic changes in long-term care after the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on Americans living in nursing homes or dependent on home healthcare medical services. Workers are calling for higher pay, better training and advancement opportunities, safe staffing ratios and greater investments in long-term care.

“Why do people not respect nursing home and home care workers? People think because you clean shit, you are shit, but if nobody cleaned up the shit, the world would be full of shit,” added Jackson. “This is the most people we’ve had who are elderly of all time and the baby boomer generation is just getting older. We have a lot of elderly people. This is everybody’s fight.”

Over 1.4 million long-term care residents and employees contracted Covid-19 in the US, and more than 181,000 deaths occurred as a result, according to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation. An analysis by the Associated Press estimated another 40,000 excess deaths occurred in these facilities between March 2020 and November 2020 that were not from Covid-19.

Charles Sloan, a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home in Detroit, Michigan, for 10 years, characterized the pandemic’s impact on nursing homes as a “storm”.

“We made a lot of sacrifices,” said Sloan. “There were staff who left, residents who lost their lives, staff members who lost their lives, people who contracted the virus.”

Though he noted things had calmed down due to the rapid vaccine rollout in the US, there needs to be greater recognition of what workers in healthcare went through during the pandemic and greater investment in healthcare.

“We really need to look at the healthcare industry in a completely different way,” added Sloan. “Workers have made sacrifices and tireless efforts to try to get things back on track. We just want people to be remembered and we want to have procedures in place so that we don’t have to go through this again.”

A March 2021 report published by Human Rights Watch found widespread problems in US nursing care facilities that worsened during the pandemic, ranging from understaffing, lack of oversight and accountability of these facilities, and prolonged isolation and neglect of residents due to Covid-19 safety protocols.

Laura Mills, the author of the report, explained family visitors often serve significant roles in providing care to loved ones living in long-term nursing facilities as understaffing and high turnover in the industry was common even before the pandemic. A separate study in March 2021 of turnover rates in 15,645 nursing homes found the average annual rate was 128%.

“All of those longstanding issues like staffing, they really blew up during the pandemic,” said Mills.

She also noted the decreased levels of accountability for the industry during the pandemic, from inspectors and monitors who were unable to visit facilities as often, to the wave of immunity laws extended to nursing home corporations during the pandemic. At least 32 states throughout the US passed laws or issued executive orders shielding nursing homes from civil liability during the Covid-19 pandemic. The report called for repealing these immunity laws, enacting federal staffing ratios, improving wages and benefits for workers, among other calls for increasing oversight, regulation and transparency in the industry.

SEIU Healthcare Illinois/Indiana rally in Chicago, Ill
SEIU members attend a rally in Chicago. Photograph: Aaron Cynic/Courtesy Service Employees International Union
“There was nothing inevitable about Covid-19 and neglect in nursing homes,” added Mills. “We basically failed to deliver tests and PPE to nursing homes and to actually enforce infection control before the pandemic so that we could have stopped the disease from getting in.”

Home healthcare workers also experienced significant issues that worsened during the pandemic, as these workers are often low-paid amid widespread staffing shortages in the industry.

Nearly nine out of 10 workers in home care are women, nearly two-thirds are people of color and about one-third are immigrants. The median hourly wage for home health and personal aide workers in 2019 was $12.15 per hour.

These low wages have contributed to high turnover rates in the industry, estimated between 40 and 60%, as demand for direct care employees is expected to increase significantly over the next few years in response to a surge in the elderly population, projected to grow by over 40 million people by 2050.

“We don’t get enough pay. We don’t even get enough to afford PPE. During the pandemic, it was either buy your own PPE or possibly get sick, and if you didn’t have your own PPE, you couldn’t work,” said Adarra Benjamin, a home care worker in Chicago, Illinois, for nine years and a member of the SEIU union.

The Service Employees International Union, which represents about 1 million caretakers around the US, lobbied aggressively for the Biden administration to include massive funding for investments in long-term care, nearly $400bn over eight years as part of the White House’s American Jobs Plan, though the specifics in the plan are still being worked out in Congress.

“We’re a necessity. People want to be around their family and, as caregivers, we provide them with the ability to live with dignity and still be at home,” said Jesse Kisamore, a home care worker in Uniontown, Pennsylvania and a SEIU member who currently makes about $11 an hour.

He explained he would like to see workers receive better compensation, especially as agencies employing direct care workers have received millions in federal coronavirus relief funding.

“The company I work for pays me a certain amount of money, they bill the state to get reimbursed, and they get more back than what they paid me. With all the money they’ve allotted for home care in the state of Pennsylvania, I don’t see why if they’re getting more money, why shouldn’t we get it as well?” he added.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

I Care A Lot: A Netflix Film A Legal and Ethical Discussion

Event Details

Have you seen the Netflix film "I Care a Lot"?

If you have and it upset you, you are like thousands of other people who are interested, curious, angry, and frightened about the content and the reality of guardianship. If you haven't watched it yet, DO! And then join Kerry R. Peck, Managing Partner of Peck Ritchey, LLC for a virtual film discussion!

I Care A Lot: A Netflix Film A Legal & Ethical Discussion Surrounding Guardianship on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, 4:00 - 5:30 PM. Plus a discussion about the Britney Spears Conservatorship! All are welcome to attend.

For $10* -1.5 Ethics CE Credit will be awarded to IL nurses, social workers, professional counselors, and nursing home administrators. Payment expected at the time of registration. To pay by check, make checks payable to Elderwerks Educational Services, a 501C3, not-for-profit corporation, and mail to 251 E Northwest Highway, Palatine IL 60067. 

*NO FEE for consumers/Community Members and those not needing CE Credit or certificate.

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What to Know About Conservatorships and Mental Illness

Conservatorships can help protect those with serious mental illness.


by Carolyn Reinach Wolf



  • Those petitioning for a conservatorship/guardianship must meet a high legal burden of proof demonstrating to a judge a person’s “incapacity."
  • Conservatorships/guardianships don’t have to be permanent; removing them can be a key motivator for individuals to make positive choices.
  • The regularity with which those with serious mental illness break with reality creates a real need for the protections these laws provide.
David Veksler/Unsplash
Source: David Veksler/Unsplash

Conversations about court-ordered conservatorships/ guardianships (the correct term depends on the state in which the proceeding is brought) have recently made their way into mainstream news. The New York Times-produced documentary about Britney Spears, along with the ongoing hearings about her own conservatorship, amplified voices behind the #FreeBritney movement, which seeks greater autonomy on behalf of the pop star. Then Republican lawmakers jumped into the conversation, requesting Congress to hold hearings on conservatorships out of concern that they “deprive individuals of personal freedoms at the behest of others through the manipulation of the courts.”

Few voices in these debates have demonstrated a full understanding of the criteria, purpose, and benefits of conservatorships/guardianships for those who suffer from serious mental illness or related mental health issues. As an attorney who concentrates on guiding families through the complex landscape of legal issues that impact loved ones with serious mental health issues, I thought it important to weigh in.

Why We Have Conservatorships

Historically, conservatorships/guardianships were designed to protect aging individuals with decreasing faculties from those set on taking advantage of them and securing their (often vast) resources. The statutes offer a means of assigning independent third parties the legal authority to make decisions on their behalf to best preserve their wellbeing and protect their financial interests.

Since then, the model has been adopted to offer similar protections for those who – due to a serious mental health condition – struggle to care for themselves and manage their financial affairs or use their own resources in their best interest. While statutes differ from state to date, they generally grant designated third parties the legal authority to perform such actions as, for example:

  • Accessing confidential information, such as financial and health records
  • Communicating with medical and mental health providers without the individual’s consent, though in their best interest
  • Hiring services to benefit the individual, including cleaning services, case managers, etc.
  • Encouraging compliance with medical and mental health treatment – for example, scheduling and accompanying individuals to their appointments
  • Marshaling assets and protecting them against frivolous spending
  • Paying bills
  • Entering into contracts (i.e., signing a lease)
  • Retaining counsel to defend against a civil proceeding, such as an eviction proceeding

Skeptics who view this authority as overly broad should understand that those petitioning for a conservatorship or guardianship must meet a high legal burden of proof demonstrating to a judge a person’s “incapacity,” meaning they cannot adequately understand and appreciate the nature and consequences of their own inabilities and are likely to suffer harm because of them. Even after this burden of proof is met, those assuming the role of conservator/guardian are subject to strict, ongoing court supervision, which provides oversight over key decisions (i.e., where an individual is living) and approval of fees for services.

Bigger picture, those critical of conservatorships/guardianships don’t often have a birds-eye view of the necessity of these laws and the crucial protections they offer. Many mental health conditions make individuals extremely vulnerable to injury, theft, and fraud, while preventing them from recognizing these vulnerabilities as well as other limitations. This can create a perfect storm that puts people in terrible personal jeopardy and financial distress. (For example, many people with bipolar disorder often engage in excessive spending during periods of mania, and can also find it challenging to stay employed.)

Conservatorships Are Not Always Forever

Conservatorships/guardianships don’t have to be permanent. Once in place, the legal burden shifts to the individual to demonstrate to a court that the conservatorship/guardianship is no longer necessary – that they can keep themself safe and manage their personal and financial affairs. This often serves as a motivator to help individuals become compliant with treatment, gain insight into their illness and stabilize, encouraging them to make the positive choices they need to stay healthy and independent.

As someone who regularly fields calls from family members who are frantic with worry about the safety of loved ones suffering from mental illness and related mental health challenges – including individuals who cycle in out of hospitals and jails, and often disappear altogether for weeks or months – I believe conservatorships/guardianships can be absolutely crucial. The regularity with which people with serious mental health conditions go off their medication, become symptomatic, and break with reality creates a clear need for the protections conservatorships/guardianships provide.

Those who care about the rights of individuals with serious mental health challenges could help by lobbying their representatives for more state and federal funding for crucial services like supportive housing and long-term treatment. These are programs that can go a long way toward helping individuals live full and independent lives, and support those who are able to petition and prevail in discontinuing their conservatorships/guardianships when their limitations or incapacities improve to the point of recovery and stability.

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Twins describe life at 100: Wine, bacon and eggs and iPhones

by A. Pawlowski

At 100 years old, twins Elaine Foster and Evelyn Lowe both have iPhones, like to play games on the computer and use online bill pay.

They live together fairly independently in a house in Bowie, Maryland, and were matter-of-fact about reaching the century mark on March 31.

It feels “no different” to be 100, Foster told TODAY. “I just feel normal”

“You’re right about that,” Lowe agreed.

© Courtesy Darvell Green The twins are both vaccinated against COVID-19. (Courtesy Darvell Green)

Lowe’s great-grandson, Darvell Green, lives with them to help with medication, cook meals, get groceries and watch over the twins, but they're able to do many things on their own, he said. A friend of the family regularly comes to help with laundry, clean the house and to take the ladies to the spa.

The twins walk on their own, but have canes for support if they need them.

“If I live to be 100, I’d love to be in their state,” Green, 27, said. “I always ask (my great-grandmother) all the time: What do you do to stay so healthy and live so long? She never really goes into detail about anything, but she always says she drinks her wine.”

The twins also couldn’t say what contributed to their longevity.

“I haven't the slightest idea,” Foster said. “I don't know how I happened to live as long as I have.”

“I have not the vaguest idea,” Lowe echoed.

Both smoked cigarettes years ago, but later quit. Both are widows and both worked for the government before retiring.


Foster eats bacon and eggs every morning, and drinks a glass of wine every day. When asked if she preferred red or white wine, she answered that “it doesn’t matter just so long as it’s not too sweet and it's not bitter.” Foster also enjoys drinking sangria, though she hasn’t had it in a long time.

Experts who study extreme longevity say centenarians are born with the right combination of protective genes, which helps them age slowly and reduces their risk for age-related diseases.

© Courtesy Darvell Green The sisters live together fairly independently in Bowie, Maryland. (Courtesy Darvell Green)

The sisters were split on whether they liked being identical twins.

“Yes, you get used to it,” Foster said.

“No, people getting us confused and everything like that,” Lowe countered.

“Mom didn’t get us confused,” her sister pointed out.

“But (other) people did,” Lowe exclaimed.

Green described his great-grandmother as “a pistol,” and her temper flared when he turned down the TV when TODAY called because she was displeased she couldn’t hear her show.

The twins are both vaccinated against COVID-19 and said it didn’t bother them to stay inside during the lockdown. They like playing solitaire and other games on their computer.

Other than arthritis, the sisters are in good health and don’t need to see the doctor very often.

“I do go once a year to get a checkup” Foster said. "I think everybody should."

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