Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Price of Care: Investigating California Conservatorships | 'The Fight for Accountability' (4/5)

The job title of a fiduciary is broad and powerful. Fiduciaries are trained to manage their client’s wealth, well-being, and assets. It’s also the certification needed to be a conservator. 

After abuse was exposed in California conservatorships, the state created the Professional Fiduciary Bureau under the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The PFB was set up to regulate “non-family member professional fiduciaries.” 

But the state entity that was created to provide oversight and protect clients has never - once - issued a citation for abuse. Abuse that could be going under the radar, as the bureau only has one investigator to look into the hundreds of detailed complaints they receive. 

Our investigation shines a light on the failure of a bureau that was set up to ensure the protection of fiduciary clients, many who are society’s most vulnerable. Conservatorships in California: Everything you need to know:


Mayor, commissioners will not follow up on audit that criticized oversight of Guardian program

WESH 2 News is investigating the state's Guardian Program.

It's designed to care for people, often elderly, who are incapacitated.

WESH 2 News investigative reporter Greg Fox explains why Orange County's mayor and commissioners are not going to follow up on an audit that criticized oversight of the program.

Rebecca Fierle is a former professional guardian who is charged with aggravated abuse and neglect of the elderly, related to the death of one of her wards, Steven Stryker.

Jan Garwood was a former Fierle Ward, whose attorney persuaded a judge last fall to restore her rights.

"And I said, 'please, if anybody is reading this, please help me. I've been kidnapped and forced into a locked facility,'" Garwood said.

Fierle was just one of the professional guardians whose questionable financial control over their wards was exposed in a March audit by Orange County's comptroller. It also suggested that the clerk of courts who oversees the Guardian program was not doing an adequate job.

After examining 3,300 cases, the audit revealed in just 14 cases, "unsupported expenses" of $1.25 million, for living facilities, medical expenses, and for "other" unexplained expenses.

But Clerk Tiffany Moore Russell pushed back, saying comptroller Phil Diamond doesn't understand how the program works.

"That this could still happen? That's really the saddest point," Orange County Commissioner Mayra Uribe said.

That's why Uribe asked for a commission workshop, to learn more.

But at a recent Public Safety Coordinating Council meeting, Russell rejected the idea.

"This is not the venue," Tiffany Moore Russell, Orange County Clerk Of Courts, said, "to address those issues regarding Guardianship."

Instead, she referred WESH 2 News to the Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers Association. In an email, a spokesman told WESH 2 News a new task force will "focus on Guardianship in Florida and make recommendations on improvements to the process."

"We will continue to work with our judiciary as far as our processes in making sure we are doing our best to protect those most vulnerable," Russell said.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said what the clerk really needs, is more money from the state.

"To look at legislative relief and funding to better fund the guardianship program," Demings said.

But critics, who believe local clerks and judges can be manipulated by guardians and their attorneys, want lawmakers to establish a statewide court and jury.

The Clerk and Comptroller Association could not provide a timetable for the new task force beginning or completing its work.
Full Article & Source:

4 NKY hospital workers convicted for abusing a patient

Four employees of Saint Elizabeth's Hospital in Edgewood were charged and sentenced for abusing an elderly patient.

Ellyssa Klein, 28, and Sandra Nobbe, 31, Gary Ray, 74, and Ashley Flower, 33, were all arrested after an investigation by the Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's Office of Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Control.

The investigation found the defendants helped each other improperly restrain an elderly patient in the Behavioral Health Unit in July 2015.

At the time, Klein and Nobbe were both certified nursing assistants with the hospital's Behavioral Health Unit. Ray and Flower were registered nurses at the hospital.

The attorney general's office said the defendants rearranged furniture around the patient's medical recliner and put therapeutic water bags on top of the patient.

The bags each weighed more than 35 pounds and were left for about 15 hours.

"We will not tolerate abuse or neglect by those charged with their care," Cameron said. "I appreciate the work of our Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Control Unit to hold accountable those responsible for these terrible actions."

In April, Klein, Nobbe and Ray pleaded guilty to Reckless Abuse or Neglect of an Adult. They were sentenced to twelve months in jail, conditionally discharged for two years. They also agreed to forfeit their professional licenses and were placed on the Caregiver Misconduct Registry for seven years.

Last week, Flower pleaded guilty to Reckless Abuse or Neglect of an Adult and was sentenced to twelve months in jail, conditionally discharged for two years. Flower also agreed to forfeit her professional license.

Anyone who wants to report abuse, neglect, or exploitation in a Medicaid facility is encouraged to contact the Attorney General's elder abuse tip line at 1-877-228-7384.

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Friday, May 28, 2021

The Price of Care: Investigating California Conservatorships | 'The Old Boy's Club' (Episode Three)

Conservatorships give control over someone’s life, money and assets to another, and if families aren’t getting along, the probate court usually will appoint a third-party fiduciary to be conservator. It’s a life-changing decision that’s often made quickly; probate courts throughout California are inundated, with judges seeing hundreds of cases in a week, sometimes dozens an hour. 

This episode digs into how our probate court system works and narrows in on the happenings of the Sacramento County Probate Court, one that multiple insiders and experts have referred to as a “good old boys’ club” throughout ABC10’s year-long investigation. Many believe it’s a club that’s benefitting its members, particularly through loopholes that some believe are leading to corruption in conservatorships. 

Conservatorships in California: Everything you need to know:

Full Article & Source:

Hearing date set for probate judge

By Scott Halasz

XENIA — A hearing date has been set for the Greene County Common Pleas Court judge accused of misconduct in his court room.

Probate Court Judge Thomas O’Diam will have a formal hearing in front of a three-member panel of the Board of Professional Conduct at 10 a.m. June 29 via video conference. The hearing is in response to a complaint made against O’Diam filed March 29.

The complaint with the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct of the Supreme Court, alleges that the judge violated rule 2.8(B) of the code, which states that “A judge shall be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, court staff, court officials, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity, and shall require similar conduct of lawyers, court staff, court officials, and others subject to the judge’s direction and control.”

It alleges that O’Diam spoke harshly to someone in his courtroom who previously told Greene County commissioners that the judge should “should recuse himself from cases in which ‘family members’ represent parties.”

In an April 19 response filed by attorney Joe Borchelt, O’Diam admitted to most of the allegations while saying other parts of the certified complaint speak for themselves.

The alleged violation occurred during a June 6, 2019 status conference regarding the estate of Carolee Buccalo, which was being handled by Brittany O’Diam, Judge O’Diam’s daughter. Buccalo’s son, Grant David Buccalo, was called to the stand and questioned at length about the comments he made to the commissioners in 2019 regarding family members representing parties in Judge O’Diam’s court.

According to county records, Brittany O’Diam has represented clients in her father’s courtroom more than 40 times since O’Diam took over the bench. The judge did not recuse himself — until Buccalo’s case — but Brittany O’Diam filed a waiver of disqualification, which is a form parties sign acknowledging the judge’s potential conflict of interest and agreeing to move forward with the case.

Buccalo did sign one of those forms when Brittany O’Diam took on the case, but he said he was an “emotional mess” when he signed the wavier. He also said his comments to the county were not meant to be taken personally by Judge O’Diam.

The complaint indicates that Buccalo did not specifically mention his mother’s estate case or express concern about his own involvement with Judge O’Diam, other than to say that he had never met him and wouldn’t recognize him. Buccalo then said he planned to file a grievance with the disciplinary counsel.

In his response, O’Diam requested that the boardreview the matter and “issue a decision that is right and just.”

Full Article & Source:

The guardianship guide: How to protect your loved ones

State laws are designed to prevent predatory behavior.


Texas has laws to protect incapacitated residents.(David Plunkert / Special Contributor)

By Mary Jacobs

It’s a nightmare scenario: A stranger knocks on the door and informs the resident, an elderly woman, that the court has appointed the visitor as her guardian.

The guardian tells the resident to pack her things immediately and whisks her off to an assisted living community. Family members try to step in, to no avail, as the guardian proceeds to sell the woman’s home and plunder her assets. And the most frightening part: It’s all legal.

That’s the opening scene of I Care a Lot, the Netflix movie starring Rosamund Pike, and shockingly, it mirrors the true story of a professional guardian named April Parks in Nevada. (The rest of the movie — involving Russian mobsters, a bag of stolen diamonds and multiple murders — is pure fiction.) Parks ripped off dozens of elderly people in Nevada; she’s now in prison.

If you saw the movie and you’re an older adult, you might wonder: Could this happen to me? If so, how can I protect myself?

Legal perspective

First, some good news: Texas has protections in place that prevent the kind of predatory scenario that occurred in Nevada.

“That story is unrecognizable to those of us who practice guardianship in Texas,” says Terry W. Hammond, executive director of the Texas Guardianship Association, an organization of professional and family guardians. “Basic due process has been infused in the system in Texas. But that’s not to say the system is perfect. We still have some work to do to improve our guardianship process.”

Guardianship involves the legal process of removing the rights of a person who is incapacitated and can’t manage affairs because of illness, injury or disability. A guardian may be appointed by a court to manage the incapacitated person, the estate or both.

There are two types of guardians: a guardian of a person who makes medical, residential and similar decisions for that ward and a guardian of the estate who manages property on behalf of a ward.

“Getting guardianship is not an easy process in Texas,” says Hammond, an attorney. “Before an incapacitated person can be assigned a guardian, there must be a court hearing and medical evidence of incapacity. The person is served papers and is entitled to legal representation.” That process usually takes four to six months.

Guardians today

About 50,000 to 60,000 Texans, with estimated assets of $5 billion to $6 billion, are under guardianship in Texas.

Hammond estimates that 75% of those serving as guardians in Texas are family members. The other 25% are professional guardians, most of whom work for nonprofits.

The Senior Source, a nonprofit serving seniors in Dallas County, offers a guardianship program that assists people 50 and older who don’t have family to serve as a guardian or in cases when the court determines that a third party should be the guardian.

“Our program has five certified guardians who step in on behalf of the elderly person to make medical decisions and to apply for benefits [such as Medicaid, Medicare or veterans benefits] to cover the cost of long-term care at a nursing home or rehab facility,” says Meghan Hutchinson, director of the guardianship program at the Senior Source and president of the Texas Guardianship Association.

Short of incarceration or a mental health commitment, guardianship is the most restrictive legal status that can be imposed on a person. Usually it’s invoked to protect vulnerable elders and only as a last resort. For example, if a neighbor is stealing the Social Security checks of an elderly person with dementia or a family member is draining an incapacitated person’s bank accounts, the courts can appoint a guardian to intervene for someone who can’t advocate for himself.

To help prevent abuse and exploitation, the Texas Legislature enacted law in 2004 to license and train professionals who serve as guardians. But given the billions of dollars under the supervision of guardians, Hammond says, there should be more oversight.

Texans will find fairly good oversight in cities like Dallas and El Paso. But in rural counties, where the county judge may be part time and has no legal training, the resources for careful adjudication and oversight are often limited. The Texas Guardianship Association is advocating for the creation of specialized regional courts that are better equipped to adjudicate guardianship cases and oversee them. (At publication time, the Legislature was considering several possible measures, but nothing had been signed into law.)

Protecting yourself

Your best protection against potential abuse or exploitation is planning ahead. Consider how you’d like your affairs to be managed if you can’t do it yourself.

“When people come in for estate planning, the possibility of becoming incapacitated is usually not on their radar,” says Ellen Daniel Williamson, an attorney with Ellen Williamson Law in Dallas. “But it can happen overnight to anyone at any age — a stroke, a car accident, a traumatic brain injury.”

Keep in mind that even if you become incapacitated, guardianship isn’t necessarily invoked unless there are no other alternatives. If a family member with power of attorney is handling the senior’s affairs appropriately, guardianship likely won’t be necessary.

Hutchinson of the Senior Source adds that probate courts investigate the need for guardianship and, if it’s necessary, a judge will decide who will serve as guardian. Courts generally prefer to appoint family members, but if relatives are not willing or able to serve, the courts turn to guardianship programs, such as the Senior Source’s, and private professionals to fill the need. Currently, there are not enough guardians to meet all the guardianship needs.

For that reason, less restrictive alternatives to guardianship should be considered for older adults who need assistance in some areas but are generally functioning independently, she says.

For example, if an elderly man with dementia is forgetting to pay his utility bills, a family member with power of attorney can assist; guardianship isn’t necessary. Similarly, the Senior Source’s Elder Financial Safety Center offers a money management program that helps seniors with that.

“Guardianship is really a last resort option, and it’s not a quick fix,” Hutchinson says.

Thinking ahead

The possibility that you could become incapacitated, temporarily or permanently, is important to consider as part of estate planning. Discuss these documents with your attorney.

A will, a living will and a durable power of attorney: Talk with your attorney and trusted family members about how you’d like your personal and financial affairs managed in the event you’re incapacitated. Remember that it can happen quickly and unexpectedly, due to a stroke or a car accident, for example.

Power of attorney: Remember that you can name different people to handle medical and financial decisions. When granting power of attorney, think carefully. Sadly, many cases of financial exploitation of elderly people are perpetrated by family members.

Declaration of guardian: This is a simple document that contains your wishes as to who you’d like to serve as your guardian should the need arise. You can also disqualify anyone whom you don’t want to be your guardian. You don’t need to share this information, just keep it on file with your will.

Finally, understand that legal guardianship is usually a last resort. If you grant power of attorney to trusted, competent family members, it’s generally not necessary. The exception arises when there are conflicts among family members or a family member acts inappropriately.


The Senior Source Guardianship Program employs a staff of five certified guardians who serve as legal guardians of people 50 and up at the appointment of the Dallas County courts. The program is funded through contracts with Dallas County and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and guardianship fees (through Medicaid or court-ordered private pay fees) plus grants and donations. Visit or call 214-525-6161.

The Texas Guardianship Association is the professional organization dedicated to educating professional family and volunteer guardians in the basics and practices of guardianship. Visit

Attorney Ellen Williamson blogs on topics related to guardianship and estate planning. Visit

Full Article & Source:

Thursday, May 27, 2021

The Price of Care: Investigating California Conservatorships | 'Patterns of Control (Episode Two)

Isolation from family and friends, depletion of estates and a group of the same attorneys, conservators, medical providers and caregivers working together. These are a few of the patterns ABC10 investigative reporter Andie Judson found in her year-long investigation into California conservatorships including a Sacramento area family business – mother, son, and daughter – who control over a quarter billion dollars of other people’s assets combined. 
This episode dives deep into an industry that many believe is benefitting its members, rather than the person it’s supposed to care for, typically an elderly person under conservatorship. Conservatorships in California: Everything you need to know:

Full Article & Source:

After WXYZ investigations, new legislation offers protection in Michigan's adult guardianship system

By: Heather Catallo

(WXYZ) — For years, the 7 Investigators have led the way in Michigan, exposing serious problems in the adult guardianship system.

Now, new legislation just introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives aims to strengthen the laws so families and vulnerable adults will have more protections in place.

When you’re declared mentally incapacitated and placed under guardianship, you can no longer make your own medical or legal decisions. And it’s shockingly easy to have someone declared "incapacitated."

“You lose everything. You have no right to vote, you have no right to medical care, you have no banking – everything is gone. That guardian basically steps in your shoes and becomes you,” said Gretchen Sommer.
Full Article & Source:

Caretaker arrested for assaulting elderly patient in his care

A certified nursing assistant was caught on camera allegedly sexually assaulting a vulnerable patient in his care. 

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Price of Care: Investigating California Conservatorships | 'Civil Death'

Conservatorships are becoming more common for one of our most vulnerable demographics: our elderly. ABC10's investigation reveals the complex workings of the system.


Deputy Cheyenne County Attorney arrested for drug possession

SIDNEY, NE — A member of the Cheyenne County Attorney's office will be in court this week, but not in his normal role. 

Cheyenne County deputy attorney Jackson Osborn was recently arrested for misdemeanor drug possession. According to court documents, he is charged with possession of marijuana over 1 ounce but less than one pound. 

Court documents say he was arrested in late April. Osborn will be arraigned Tuesday in Cheyenne County Court. 

A special prosecutor has been assigned to the case. 

According to the Cheyenne County website, Osborn has served as a deputy attorney in the county since 2019.

Full Article & Source:

Moultrie man charged with 10 counts of exploitation

By Jack R. Jordan

MOULTRIE, Ga. — GBI along with local law enforcement have arrested a man in connection with two unlicensed personal care homes and elderly abuse.

Chadwick Demtrix Pittman, 30, 1895 Blossom Court, was arrested May 20 following an investigation that began in November, according to Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michael Callahan of the GBI. 

“The GBI Region 9 Office was originally requested by the Moultrie Police Department to assist in an elder abuse case involving an individual who resided at 1212th Ave. SW,” Callahan said in an email conversation Monday.

Throughout the course of the investigation, it was determined that the residence of the 12th Avenue address, 2916 Sylvester Drive and 3445 Sylvester Drive were being operated by Pittman as unlicensed personal care homes, Callahan said.

“On May 19, the GBI, MPD and Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office executed search warrants on these addresses,” stated Callahan. 

Law enforcement also raided Pittman’s personal address. Ten disabled adults were removed from the homes. Temporary Emergency Respite Funds, Georgia Pines, Benchmark, Colquitt County EMS and the Department of Behavioral Health all aided in getting care for the individuals, Callahan said. 

Pittman was arrested May 20 and was charged with ten counts of exploitation of a disabled adult.

Full Article & Source:

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Alabama Supreme Court creates Commission on Adult Guardianships and Conservatorships

The commission is comprised of 20 members appointed by the Supreme Court of Alabama.

MONTGOMERY, Alabama — The Supreme Court of Alabama has established the Alabama Supreme Court Commission on Adult Guardianships and Conservatorships to continue the work of the Alabama Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders group, a multidisciplinary effort to improve Alabama’s guardianship and conservatorship systems, in a long-term and sustainable way.

The first Alabama WINGS group was established in 2017 and administered by the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts with funding support from the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging and the Alabama Law Foundation Inc.

The Alabama Supreme Court Commission on Adult Guardianships and Conservatorships will continue the mission of WINGS, which is to deliver information, resources and tools throughout the legal system, and to the public, as a means of providing appropriate decision-making supports and protective services to individuals. The commission is comprised of 20 members appointed by the Supreme Court of Alabama.

Chief Justice Tom Parker said on behalf of the Court: “This Commission was established primarily to identify problems and propose solutions to issues affecting vulnerable adults and those with disabilities who encounter the guardianship system.  We also want to encourage the use of alternatives to guardianship as a way for individuals to maintain decision-making independence.”

Gaines Brake, the chair of the commission, added: “I am thrilled the Alabama Supreme Court has created this Commission.  It will allow us to make further improvements to the guardianship system and enhance resources for courts, attorneys, professionals, and the public.”

More information about the Guardianship and Conservatorship Commission may be found on the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts’ website.

This story originally appeared in the Alabama Political Reporter.

Full Article & Source:

Court: Pensacola attorney ran up $28,000 bill with frivolous, exaggerated filings

by Colin Warren-Hicks

The Florida Supreme Court has disciplined a prominent Pensacola personal injury attorney for submitting frivolous and exaggerated filings to run up his attorney's fee to more than $28,000 in a single case.

Jeremiah J. Talbott's legal license was suspended for 60 days and he was ordered to attend the Florida Bar's Professionalism Workshop and Ethics School, according to a news release from the Florida Bar. The Florida Supreme Court served Talbott with a disciplinary order April 15 mandating he begin his temporary suspension within 30 days.

The disciplinary actions resulted from Talbott "churning" legal fees, a term used in the legal profession for when an attorney performs unnecessary work to run up the bill for their services.

Talbott did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the News Journal on Monday.

Talbott was hired to litigate a federal court case in February 2017 under the Fair Labor Standards Act. His client, Christopher Moss, was a driver-operator at a local construction company, Pav'R Construction Inc., or PRC.

Moss quit his job after his employers wanted him to pay for equipment they claimed he broke while on the job. After he quit, his wages were withheld for one pay period to compensate the company for some of the broken equipment.

"This action by PRC technically meant that Mr. Moss was paid less than the minimum wage for one pay period, and PRC had violated a federal statute, the Fair Labor Standards Act," according to the Florida Bar's complaint against Talbott.

Moss hired Talbott to take PRC and the company's owner, Michael Breton, to court, arguing he was owned $496.62 in withheld wages.

After several months of back and forth legal filings, Breton and PRC agreed to pay Moss the $496.62.

Talbott subsequently filed a motion requesting that Breton and PRC pay him $28,351 in attorney's fees that he claimed to have incurred while recovering the $496.62 on behalf of his client, and the court took issue with his request. 

A complaint filed by the Florida Bar to the Florida Supreme Court stated that Talbott "exaggerated the amount of fees owned by claiming he did numerous secretarial tasks and paralegal tasks at his $350 per hour legal rate rather than delegating those tasks to his legal staff."

Talbott was charged with breaking Florida legal disciplinary rules that included conducting frivolous litigation, failing to expedite litigation, filing exaggerated billing sheets with the court and filing extensive and unnecessary discovery to increase attorney fees without a reason, according to the Florida Bar.

Florida Supreme Court documents showed Talbott did not contest the allegations, and he was subsequently disciplined. 

Full Article & Source:

Challenges in Will Making & New Innovative Digital Storage Solutions

A couple of years back we heard this tragic story about a well-off, retired couple. Mrs Iyer was diagnosed with stage IV cancer and passed away soon after. A year later, Mr Iyer was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Friends and extended family rallied around, wanting to help but were unaware of their assets or whether they had made a Will. It was a helpless situation. As a DINK (double income no kids) couple, the Iyers had always been prudent with their expenses, saving and investing wisely so that they could lead an independent retired life.
They had made mirror Wills bequeathing all their assets to each other (in case one of them dies before the other) and bequeathing it all to an NGO in case both happen to die together. They had just not contemplated a situation where one of them would be incapable of  taking decisions for oneself or living independently. How does one prepare for such situations?
One way is to write a letter of instructions which can serve as a helpful guide for those who have to settle your affairs if you are incapacitated or once you are gone. 
A letter of instructions is an inventory of all your assets and their whereabouts: the names and contact information of bankers, brokers, attorneys who handle your assets; necessary information about all liquid assets (including bank, demat accounts, retirement/investment details); details of insurance coverage; location of legal and financial documents such as bank statements, tax returns, birth and marriage certificates, divorce and citizenship papers, titles and/or deeds for any real estate properties; location of safe deposit lockers and their keys; instructions for the care and placement of pets etc. 
It can also include informal information regarding the dispersion of assets, such as who would get a sentimental possession or heirloom (the Will may state that these articles are to be distributed according to the letter). 
One can also add preferences about what happens to our digital footprint with instructions about social media accounts. One can use the letter of instructions to expand on one’s living Will, elaborating on the medical conditions under which we would prefer to be taken off of life support, in more detail than is permitted in a medical/ healthcare power of attorney.  
The letter provides valuable insight to anyone responsible for settling your affairs or even executing your Will. Unlike a Will, this letter has no legal authority but offers guidance to the executor of your Will and to your family for things not covered by the Will. It allows you to leave a final message for your family without the formality that comes with a legal document.
The letter of instructions may also mention who can make financial decisions for you in case you are physically /mentally incapacitated in future. As per the legal terms, it would require the incapacity to be certified by a doctor.
Only one nominee can be appointed in respect of bank-deposits and lockers under sections 45ZA to 45ZF of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949. Thus, under the current provisions it is not possible to have successive nomination in a bank account. Successive nomination provides auto-passing of nomination to the next nominee in case of death of the first nominee. The situation arises when spouses of aged couples nominate each other as nominees where, in case both of them die, the legal heirs may have to go through a cumbersome procedure of getting a succession certificate.  A Will allows you to make more detailed decisions, but in many jurisdictions which require a probate, the process itself is slow, expensive and often harrowing.
After a year that has forced us to think about our mortality, people are getting serious about writing their Will, as they re-assess their lives, after the destabilising events of the pandemic. In such a situation, letter of instructions and Will would play a key role.
Here are 36 most commonly asked questions and answers penned by Advocate Vimal Punmiya which will help you get all your facts in order while making your Will.
Having written a Will and a letter of instructions, a sensible thing to do is to tell a close friend or family member or lawyer about where it can be found. You should always tell someone you trust where your Will is stored while you are still alive, as not doing so may even mean that they might never find it.
Beneficiaries are often kept in dark about the Will contents and a list of assets is often not readily available. The main reason for such secrecy is that the testator might face hostile behaviour from aggrieved legatees when he/she is alive. Parents are also hesitant to discuss/ disclose finances with their kids. 
The other thing that people normally do is tell the family that they have registered a Will and then people look it up after the person’s death. Another option is to tell the family it is with the CA/lawyer (if they have trusted people) - but not everyone trusts lawyers and CAs since there are cases of them misusing the trust placed in them. So Wills are always shrouded by secrecy and controversies. This is why sometimes legatees produce fake Wills only to contest genuine Wills.  How to safeguard from this?
Sometimes the Will copy is not found at all. If a person dies without a Will (or if a Will is not found), State law determines through a formula what happens to the person's assets without considering the special needs of any individual or family. Without a Will, surviving family members may face unnecessary hardship at a difficult time and the probability of nasty, long-drawn court battles over one's estate increases.
While a Will does not need to be registered to be valid in India and can be hand-written, it needs to be signed by the person in the presence of two witnesses for it to be legal. Electronic copies of a Will, whether stored online or otherwise are not valid in India. In India, you need to have a physically signed copy of Will for it to be valid before a court of law.
A new entrant to the market, Will & More is offering an innovative digital solution to solve this problem. They provide an online facility to register the location of your Will copy (Let’s say locker no. 23, SBI Bank, Dadar, Mumbai) so that after your death, your loved ones can easily locate the Will.
They also provide a facility to store a letter of instructions on their portal. Advocate Joby Mathew, who is behind this new innovative idea explained how the product works. 
Mr Mathew said “Like all important documents that relate to your property, your Will needs to be stored in a secure manner and at a location that is accessible and known. The location of your Will could be at a special place in your home, a bank locker, with a friend or with a lawyer. Will & More allows you to register the location of your Will securely and confidentially. 
This offering is along the lines of Certainty - the National Will Register in the UK. 
Will & More allows online payment and gives you a receipt number/ client ID, which you can store along with other valuables for future references. You need to be specific in your description of the location of your Will and describe its exact whereabouts. These remain confidential and are not available even to the website or the law firm behind it. An important advantage of this is that the information cannot be used to collect data for hard-selling wealth management products or legal services, as has happened with many free and easy online Will services.
Clarifying further on the storage solution aspect, Mr Mathew explained, “We use  Amazon Web Services (AWS) servers to store the data which is uploaded by clients; the data is stored in such a manner that even the client does not have visibility; when new data such as Will location or letter of instructions is uploaded, the earlier data is overwritten. Upon a successful search, the Will  location and letter of instructions is sent out by the server to the email address of the nominee without any manual intervention from our side except to validate the circumstances (death or permanent disability) which trigger the email. We will not be able to retrieve the data in case of loss of credentials. (Users can however change passwords or generate a new one if the earlier one is lost). The passwords are not stored in the system and therefore, we will not be able to access the data”. 
Will & More also offers 5 different do-it-yourself (DIY) Will templates which can be downloaded and used to customise your own Will starting at Rs1500. 
The cost of registering the location of your Will and the letter of instructions with Will & More would be Rs5500 to Rs 6500 for a period of 5 years, which makes it rather expensive. 
 “The  letter of instructions alone can be made available on a specific request to the persons or nominees named, in the event of the registered user’s incapacitation due to accidents, or debilitating illnesses like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, or any other condition that would render a person of unsound mind, after submission of valid medical documents/certificates and after due verification”, said Mr Mathew.
The location of your Will and the contents of your letter of instructions are only released to nominees/ beneficiaries on providing a copy of your death certificate and proof of identity. However, it also charges a fairly stiff fee of Rs2,500 to search for the location of the Will and letter of instructions on the portal.
Will & More aims to fulfil the gap in the Indian Will making and storage practices and to promote a culture of leaving a letter of instructions.
Full Article & Source:

Monday, May 24, 2021

I-Team: Woman accused of exploiting 86-year-old veteran for life savings

Woman identified as man's neighbor; veteran died in February
by: David Charns

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A woman who assisted an 86-year-old veteran with dementia had him give her the power of attorney and became the sole beneficiary of his entire estate after his death, court documents said.

Carolyn Richardson is also accused of attempting to take the man’s mobile home and two cars. She is charged with financial exploitation of an older or vulnerable person, attempted theft, theft, neglect and isolation.

The man’s name is not included in the documents.

According to court documents, Richardson had the man sign forms, giving her the power of attorney and making her the sole beneficiary of his estate. They had known each other for less than a year. 

She identified herself to police as the man’s neighbor, who helped him for several months before his death.

Metro Police arrested her earlier this month after a months-long investigation by Adult Protective Services and Metro investigators.

The veteran died in February 2021. According to court records, he had bequeathed his trust to Richardson in November 2020, a few months after doctors diagnosed him with dementia and severe hearing loss.

In addition, it was revealed the veteran was undernourished.

Investigators said the man, identified as a prominent local military figure, had intended to leave tens of thousands of dollars to military and children’s charities. A copy of the updated will shows $130,000 meant for those charities was reduced to $19,000 and the rest of the estate was to go to Richardson.

Police said $30,000 of the veteran’s money and a car are missing. Police allege money and jewelry were stolen from him.

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SavaSeniorCare LLC Agrees to Pay $11.2 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Friday, May 21, 2021

SavaSeniorCare LLC Agrees to Pay $11.2 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations


Allegations Include Medically Unnecessary Rehabilitation Therapy Services and Grossly Substandard Skilled Nursing Services

SavaSeniorCare LLC and related entities (Sava), based in Georgia, have agreed to pay $11.2 million, plus additional amounts if certain financial contingencies occur, to resolve allegations that Sava violated the False Claims Act by causing its skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) to bill the Medicare program for rehabilitation therapy services that were not reasonable, necessary or skilled, and to resolve allegations that Sava billed the Medicare and Medicaid programs for grossly substandard skilled nursing services. Sava currently owns and operates SNFs across the country.

“Nursing home operators will be held accountable when they engage in fraudulent schemes and put their own financial gain ahead of the needs of their vulnerable residents,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “To ensure the integrity of our public health care programs, the department will pursue operators who bill Medicare and Medicaid for unnecessary or grossly substandard services and who fail to provide adequate care.”  

In 2015, the government filed a consolidated False Claims Act complaint against Sava, alleging that between October 2008 and September 2012, Sava knowingly submitted false claims for rehabilitation therapy services as a result of a systematic effort to increase its Medicare billings. The United States’ complaint alleged that, through corporate-wide policies and practices, Sava exerted significant pressure on its SNFs to meet unrealistic financial goals, resulting in the provision of medically unreasonable, unnecessary or unskilled services to Medicare patients. Sava allegedly set these aggressive, prospective corporate targets for the highest Medicare reimbursement rates without regard for its patients’ actual clinical needs and then pressured its staff to meet those targets. Sava also allegedly sought to increase its Medicare payments by delaying the discharge of patients from its facilities, even though the patients were medically ready to be discharged.

This settlement also resolves allegations that between October 2008 and September 2012, Sava knowingly submitted false claims to Medicaid for coinsurance amounts for rehabilitation therapy services for beneficiaries eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid and for whom Sava also allegedly submitted or caused the submission of false claims to Medicare for those services.

In addition, this settlement resolves allegations that between January 2008 and December 2018, Sava knowingly submitted false claims for payment to Medicare and Medicaid for grossly and materially substandard and/or worthless skilled nursing services. The government alleged that some of the nursing services provided by Sava failed to meet federal standards of care and federal statutory and regulatory requirements, including failing to have sufficient staffing in certain facilities to meet certain residents’ needs. The government also alleged that in certain skilled nursing facilities, Sava failed to follow appropriate pressure ulcer protocols and appropriate falls protocols, and failed to appropriately administer medications to some of the residents. 

“When corporate greed rises to the level of defrauding federal health care programs, while subjecting one of our most vulnerable populations to grossly substandard care and unnecessary medical services, we must hold the companies accountable,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Mary Jane Stewart for the Middle District of Tennessee. “Any fraud that undermines the care being provided to elderly nursing home residents cannot continue and will be exposed and rooted out. We are grateful to the courageous whistleblowers who reported this egregious conduct.”

“Nursing home residents should not be at the mercy of nursing home operators that put their own economic gain ahead of the needs of the residents, and we will continue to aggressively pursue those operators who bill Medicare and Medicaid for substandard care,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “This settlement holds Sava accountable, and the resulting Corporate Integrity Agreement should ensure that Sava provides seniors with quality care and treats its residents with dignity and respect.”

“Too many unscrupulous nursing homes operators seek maximum profit by routinely inflating bills while providing grossly substandard care,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “Medicare and Medicaid patients deserve so much better. With our law enforcement partners, we will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who place profits over patients.”

Under the settlement with the United States, and separate settlements with participating states, Sava has agreed to pay a total of approximately $11.2 million, plus additional amounts if certain financial contingencies occur. The settlement was based on the company’s ability to pay.

In connection with the settlement, Sava entered into a five-year chain-wide Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) with HHS-OIG that requires an independent review organization to annually review patient stays and associated paid claims by Medicare for those stays. In addition, Sava is required to engage an Independent Monitor to review the quality of resident care. CIAs promote compliance and protect vulnerable nursing home residents.

The civil settlement includes the resolution of claims brought under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act against Sava by Relators Rita Hayward, Trammel Kukoyi, Terrence Scott, James Thornton and Barbara Roberts. Under those provisions, a private party can file an action on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of any recovery. The qui tam cases are captioned United States ex rel. Hayward v. SavaSeniorCare, LLC, et al., No. 3:11-cv-0821 (M.D. Tenn.); United States ex rel. Scott v. SavaSeniorCare Administrative Services, LLC, 3:15-cv-0404 (M.D. Tenn.); United States ex rel. Kukoyi v. Sava Senior Care, L.L.C., et al., No. 3:15-cv-1102 (M.D. Tenn.); and United States, et al. ex rel. Thornton, et al. v. SavaSeniorCare, Inc., et al., Civil Action No. 16-CV-0840 (E.D. Pa.). 

The resolutions obtained in these matters were the result of a coordinated effort between the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, Fraud Section, and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Middle District of Tennessee and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, with assistance from the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Southern District of Texas and the Western District of Texas, as well as from HHS-OIG and the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units. The quality of care investigation was supported by the Justice Department’s Elder Justice Initiative, which helps to coordinate the department’s law enforcement and programmatic efforts to combat elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Learn more about the Elder Justice Initiative and the department’s elder justice efforts at

The investigation and resolution of these matters illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating healthcare fraud. One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act. Tips and complaints from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement can be reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).

These matters were handled by Fraud Section attorneys Alison Rousseau, Susan Lynch, Seth Greene, Breanna Peterson, Christopher Terranova, and Laura Hill; Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Wildasin of the Middle District of Tennessee; and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charlene Fullmer, David Degnan, and Gerald Sullivan of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.


Their view: Guardianship programs care for people through spectrum of life

by Nancy Hudack

Protective service workers, like myself, are fortunate to work with people across the spectrum of life and need.

As professionals, we care for people during the various developmental stages of their lives to address special needs, whether they be educational or care related. We are there in preschool, elementary school and high school. And also as they mature into young adults, senior citizens and eventually for those who need us to assume guardianship of their daily lives.

May is a time to raise awareness about strokes, the fifth leading cause of death annually in the United States, according to More than 800,000 strokes occur every year, oftentimes causing major disabilities for adults of all ages.

Stroke Awareness Month gives me an opportunity to outline the services people may need after a stroke. A lot of times these medical emergencies leave a person with limited abilities to meet their activities of daily living or their independent activities of daily living. This situation leaves a person without the ability to understand their complicated medical needs. A person who suffers a stroke often is unable to handle bill paying or acquire services needed to meet their individual needs.

Sadly, many victims of strokes do not have family or friends to help meet their needs.

Family Service Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania (FSA) offers the Guardianship Program in Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe and Wyoming counties. Guardianship can be of the person, estate or both. Guardianship of person assists a person with their services, doctor appointments, medications management, home health services, personal care and grooming. Guardianship of estate assists with all the person’s financial needs, from bill paying to environmental maintenance. At FSA, the Guardianship Program also offers power-of-attorney services for people who still have the capacity to make their own decisions.

FSA has been awarded guardianship of people for many different reasons. Some of our clients come to us because there is no family member or friend they feel can be in charge of their personal care. Some clients lack a family member or caregiver who can be a decision-maker for them. While other clients come to FSA due to a lifelong disability, some select FSA to be their guardian.

One such client, who came to FSA as a guardianship client, was due to a stroke during surgery that left the client disabled.

After a harrowing accident, the client’s family just did not feel capable of making decisions for the loved one. Although the family is his primary caregiver and meets his daily needs, FSA is involved with approving and paying his bills, setting up social activities and helping with legal issues. An FSA caseworker visits the client monthly to determine if any needs are not being met and to check if he requires any changes to his current plan of care.

FSA was appointed guardian of another incapacitated person after her mother died and siblings were not appropriate to act as guardians. Our caseworker role with this client is very involved, as the client receives weekly to bi-weekly visits, 24-hour, in-home nursing services, grocery ordering and delivery, bill paying services and engaging social activities.

FSA’s Guardianship Program focuses on a client’s plan, past activities and enjoyments in life. Caseworkers build a relationship with the client in order to get to know him or her in order to make them happy. The caseworker then develops a plan of care based on conversations with the client. Decisions are made for clients using a client-focused method. Family is always involved as much as they want to be in their loved one’s decisions.

Overall, the Guardianship Program has clients ranging in age from 18 to 94. FSA’s caseworkers have experience and knowledge in all aspects of a person’s life from schooling to end of life care. Caseworkers are aware of any new regulations or laws pertaining to guardianship, and complete all required training and continuing education that affect the care of clients.

If you or a loved one need help with decision-making, and want a professional who follows state and local guardianship laws, please contact FSA at (570) 823-5144.

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Sunday, May 23, 2021

ABC10 to release year-long investigation of California's conservatorship industry

Investigative reporter Andie Judson champions this ABC10 Originals series, “Price of Care: Investigating California Conservatorships”.

Credit: ABC10/KXTV

KXTV Staff 
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — One year in the making, ABC10 Investigative Reporter Andie Judson closely examines California's conservatorships and what's being done to regulate the $13-billion-dollar industry in her 5-part series, "The Price of Care: Investigating California Conservatorships."

The series will air every day on Late News Tonight at 11 p.m. starting Monday, May 24 through Friday, May 28 on ABC10.

Many may have heard of conservatorships recently by way of Britney Spears or the Golden Globe winning Netflix film, “I Care a Lot," but for Judson it all started with a tip from a woman who became one of the sources in the series.

"I called and during our hour long conversation, she explained how her mother was under a conservatorship and what that meant," Judson remembers. 

Not familiar with conservatorships prior to that conversation, she recognized how "incredibly important" it was that a conservator is able to hold that much power over another person.

"A conservatorship is a court case where a judge appoints a responsible person or organization (called the “conservator”) to care for another adult (called the “conservatee") who cannot care for himself or herself or manage his or her own finances," according to Judicial Council of California.

Gonzalo MagaƱa, Executive Producer of ABC10 Originals team, said what began as an initial pitch about fiduciaries turned into an in-depth look at conservatorships in California — the immense power and control conservators and fiduciaries have over other people’s lives and their money — with little oversight and accountability from state regulators resulting in abuse of our most vulnerable population, the elderly.  

“It’s a really complex system,” is a common sentiment many have shared with Judson throughout the course of the series. 

"I believe just because something’s complex doesn’t mean that we aren’t entitled to understand it," Judson said. "In fact, isn’t that more reason to be shining a light on it for our community?" 

For a year, Judson and the ABC10 Originals team delved into California’s conservatorship system. She says they scoured hundreds of court documents and spoke with dozens of people from attorneys, judges, and California legislators to those under conservatorships and their family members to create the series. 

The investigation was underway during the coronavirus pandemic providing additional hurdles securing and performing in-person interviews and access to important documents.

"I am so proud of the ABC10 journalists who worked tirelessly to bring the stories of those impacted to life," Jill Manuel, Director of Content at ABC10, said.

ABC10 Photojournalist Victor Nieto served as the lead photojournalist, editor on the project and helped conduct the investigation. Digital Producer Sabrina Sanchez served as associate producer and helped conduct research, and lead the social and digital rollout alongside Content Producer, Mike Bunnell. Photojournalists Tyler Horst and Rory Ward served as producers and editors of the year-long investigation.

"I hope this series helps communities throughout California better understand how our conservators, fiduciaries and probate courts are operating," Judson said.

Risa Omega, President and General Manager of ABC10, wants the series to not only educate ABC10 viewers on how conservatorships work but also help people protect themselves and their loved ones in the future.

"We hope shining a light on the systemic problem will lead to new laws and protocols that will regulate fiduciaries and hold them accountable for their practices," Judson said.

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Fort Lauderdale Lawyer Suspended

“A felony and stealing money from your client typically results in a suspension and disbarment,” said Jan L. Jacobowitz, an expert in legal ethics.

By Michael A. Mora

Danielle Butler, managing partner at the Luxury Law Group in Fort Lauderdale. Courtesy photo

Danielle Butler has rough seas ahead.

The Florida Supreme Court suspended Butler, managing partner at the Luxury Law Group in Fort Lauderdale, from the practice of law after the maritime attorney pleaded no contest in separate criminal proceedings and as a result was sentenced to one year of probation for stealing money from a client.


Man, 83, dead after assault by fellow Bronx nursing home resident

By Elizabeth Keogh

An elderly man died after he was assaulted by a fellow resident of a Bronx nursing home, police said Friday.

Officers were called to Pinnacle Multicare Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Co-Op City about 6:30 p.m. for an assault, cops said.

When they arrived, they found an 83-year-old resident of the home face down and unconscious with severe trauma to his head.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police believe an 87-year-old resident entered the victim’s room and repeatedly smashed his head on the concrete floor.
The suspect, who police sources say suffers from dementia, was taken into custody.
His charges were pending late Friday night.
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