GUARDIANSHIP is the 2016 Gold Medal Winner for Current Events II (Social Issues / Public Affairs / Ecological / Humanitarian) Excellence eLit Book Award. It’s difficult to believe it happens, but forced guardianship fraud runs unchecked throughout the nation’s probate courts.
Deemed incapacitated by the courts, elderly citizens are robbed of all decision-making rights and assigned professional guardians whose only interest lies in profiting from their vulnerable charges’ estates. Guardianship: How Judges and Lawyers Steal Your Money exposes a web of murderous profiteering, all sanctioned by a corrupt legal system. As guardians take everything they can, judges and attorneys turn a blind eye. Crooked cops harass family members into silence, while the very attorneys you hired won’t help for fear of losing their licenses.
These are the people who may one day control your loved one’s health care, living arrangements, finances, and very life. Ostensibly created to prevent financial abuse by caregivers and family members, professional guardianship instead gave the legal system carte blanche to destroy lives—as author Michael Larsen discovered when family members tried to help a friend suffering under a corrupt guardian, attorney, and commissioner.
Here is a guide for families to better understand a corrupt system, delineating what happens when a loved one falls victim to professional guardians, and offering suggestions to minimize your risk of what amounts to legally sanctioned abuse. GUARDIANSHIP includes articles by journalists, attorneys, advocates, and others who have given their permission to be used in this book. Our collective goal is for public awareness of this serious crime. “Outside of execution, guardianship is the most radical remedy we have.” – Elias Cohen, Philadelphia Attorney and Gerontologist “Instead of serving to protect the assets of incapacitated persons, the existing guardianship system presents the opportunity for unscrupulous guardians to loot the assets of their wards and enrich themselves with impunity.” – New York Grand Jury “You are a target because you have assets.”
You don’t necessarily have to be very old. You can even be quite lucid. That won’t stop these predators. When it comes to removing your rights and your money, these folks are experts.” – Money Magazine “A simple slip-and-fall can put someone into the guardianship of unknown persons with no knowledge to family and friends until the deed is done. Forced incompetency; get control over everything and the ward (senior) loses all rights.” Robert W Melton, Pinellas County Internal Auditor, “Dirty Tricks of Guardianship – The Need for Change,” April 2004
Then Pinellas County Internal Auditor Robert W. Melton lectured at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg on: “Dirty Tricks of Guardianships – The Need for Change.”
Here are just 10 of the “dirty tricks,” as outlined by Pinellas County Internal Auditor Robert W. Melton taken from Justice for FL Senior’s website:
1) Guardian creation of a trust: Remove all oversight by the court as a provision of the trust agreement; guardian becomes trustee; provide that the trustee can do whatever they want at their sole discretion.
2) Sell real estate at lowball price: Use “lowball” valuations as a benchmark; don’t list property with Realtors; sell to a land trust, where nobody knows the beneficiary; watch property resold a few months later for a huge increase.
3) Maximize your (or your crony’s) profit from investments: Hire money manager for “financial expertise” and let the manager select an investment broker; invest in volatile stocks and trade frequently to generate commissions; if you run up a large gain, don’t selectively liquidate over time to pay the taxes but hold a “fire sale” to raise funds all in one day.
4) Undervalue beginning inventory: Have a used-furniture “friend” value a house full of antiques for $3,000; “forget” to put some of the more expensive items on the inventory; “forget” to include a $40,000 certificate of deposit.
5) Pay yourself first: Make payment of guardian and attorney fees the highest priority; disregard mortgage payments and let ward’s home go into foreclosure; squirrel away money in the attorney’s escrow account for possible future expenses.
6) Maintain guardianship at all costs: Keep family members uninformed; if family members try to become guardian, accuse them of stealing; use the ward’s assets for legal fights to retain guardianship.
7) Improper financial reporting: Bury asset-management and brokerage fees as aggregate capital losses “due to market fluctuations”; don’t classify disbursements separately; file incomplete or incorrect safe-deposit box inventories.
8) Forced incompetency: Visit assisted-living facilities and establish employee contacts; obtain voluntary limited financial guardianship; if there is money in the estate, do paperwork to force an evaluation of competency; get control over everything and the ward loses all rights.
9) Pay your attorney well: Let attorney bill full rate to shop for a computer and set it up for the ward; let attorneys bill their full rate, even if work is done by a paralegal or assistant.
10) Forget to file federal tax returns: Ensure there is a refund; wait till the ward dies; get check without oversight.
Data aggregation sources and leads: regional newspapers, VP Taskforce, AltrueSoft Tech Platforms, Citizen to Citizen Reporting, Northwest Journal News, Grassroots Elder Advocate Organizations, State & national GAO research monitoring & grant projects. Key search terms: § 18-1505, § 39-5302, Adult Protective Services, Dept. of Health, Elder Abuse and Exploitation. Aggregated & direct interviews via Citizen research and complaints focused on corruption, professional cronyism among state licensed service providers such as Estate Planning Attorneys, Doctors, Physicians, Clinicians & coordinated medical/neurocognitive/capacity evaluations, Conservator, Court Visitor, LSW, Guardian, Guardianship, Trustee, Management Services, IRPC, Idaho State Bar, CMS, Hospital, Facility Management, SEC, FINRA, Code of Federal Regulations,Tax Fraud, Wealth Management Services, Certified Financial Forensics & CPA Investigation manuals, Uniform Code and many more industry compliance guidelines . Supported by research from over site sources, Bureau of Occupational Licenses and all State Statutes relevant to Negligence, Exploitation & Abuse including Probate Court monitoring, Senate Hearing on “Toxic Conservatorships“, recent federal legislation, Acts of Congress, Elder Justice Act, Elder Abuse Guide For Law Enforcement (EAGLE), American Bar Association & American Psychologists Association Resources on & Elder Abuse & Vulnerable Person Legislation.
Courtesy of Spokane; Washington, Sandpoint & Coeur d’alene; Kootenai County, Idaho Elder Abuse Advocates & Grassroots Networks.