Friday, March 14, 2008

"Motives of Petitioners in Contested Conservatorships and Guardianships"

Prepared for the Senate Special Committee on Aging

In discussing the motives that drive these involuntary conservatorship and guardianship proceedings, I am speaking for the hundreds of thousands of men and women whose retirement years have been destroyed by them. Our states designate these proceedings as "non-adversarial" in nature, brought out of the goodness of a petitioner's heart to help an elderly person in distress.

It is a powerful term, and it is almost always incorrect. These are court battles, fought over money, power and control. Sadly, the elderly lose almost 94% of the time, often in proceedings that take only minutes. Their cases are rarely appealed.

Let's begin with a brief discussion of the motives guiding family members. The majority of these petitions are Filed by adult children who are seeking some form of control over the personal and/or financial affairs of their aging relatives. They are sibling battles rooted in issues of inheritance and control, often described as "thinly veiled pre-death will contests." Anyone who reaches 62 with coveted assets is at risk.

As one forensic psychiatrist noted about these so-called protective proceedings, "For every $100,000 in a given estate, a lawyer shows up; for every $25,000, a family member shows up; and if there isn't any money, then nobody shows up" Harold T. Nedd's "Fighting over the care of aging parents," USA Today).

What motives drive members of the court? Judges and their favored professional conservators and guardians, expert witnesses and court investigators have unspoken agendas: money, power and control. When an elderly individual is brought into court and forced to prove his or her competence, we soon see that the system does not work. We have a system rife with court-sanctioned abuse of the elderly. Why? Judges override
protections that have been put in place in the codes. It happens every day. Judges disregard durable powers of attorney—the single most important document each of us can create to determine our care should we become incapacitated.

Judges ignore our lists of pre-selected surrogate decision-makers. The current system does not work. This reality is most apparent when a wealthy individual falls victim to these involuntary proceedings and his or her wealth becomes a ripe plum to be shared by the Judge's favorites.

The cost of my mother's 18-month conservatorship battle in Los Angeles
Superior Court exceeded one million dollars because no court appointee would let the matter end until my mother agreed to settle out of court and pay every bill of every person involved on both sides of the case.

Money is a lure. Once the hook is set in a wealthy potential ward, courts have a feeding frenzy. All of Riverside County in Southern California was held hostage by the collusion between a single probate judge and his favorite professional conservator. [See Cases #3 and #4 in Appendix]

Families are destroyed by these proceedings. The hundreds of thousands of unfortunate men and women who have been placed in the velvet handcuffs of contested conservatorships and guardianships in America are without hope. Their conservatorships and guardianships end only when they die—or when the system spends their estates down to $10,000 or less and spits the wards out into a harsh world of poverty.

Sibling battles rooted in issues of inheritance, control and care; social welfare petitions driven by hidden agendas of power and control; nursing hones that quietly require financial guarantees; and court actions that create the very abuse they are tasked to address—our country's involuntary conservatorship and guardianship system is out of control. It is no longer a morally permissible option.

Due to space constraints a very limited version of Diane's presentation to the the Senate is presented here click on the .PDF icon to see her complete work along with compelling case histories.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sadly, here where I live I have discovered a trail of decent and corruption within the court system and the Aging Dept which claim's to protect the eldery "wards" as they like to call them.
Once an court appointed guardian establishes themselves within the court system, the judges do not wish to hear complaints and give the gaurdians who abuse the rubber stamp go ahead.
Courts and protective agencies never want to admit they were wrong or had mis judgement in their decision making so they ignore the complaints and continue to allow injustice and abuse to take place. Attorney's here are often involved in the decent. The unholy alliance prevails and the abused and neglected "ward" has no voice in any aspect of their life.
They are literally left there, awaiting death while their entire life is being stripped from them. The criminals committing these crimes need to be jailed for life. I do not understand nor do I comprehend how we have allowed this abuse and neglect to take place in our society. It continue's to amaze me each and everyday tha I awake.
We are in the middle of starting a supoort group and guardian watch group here and we hope that we can and will make a difference.
We have made it our lifetime goal to put a stop to the abuse and neglect of the elderly by guardians, attorneys, organizations and the court system. This is a tuff cookie to crumble but we are prepared to do whatever it takes to get this STOPPED and to get someone to listen.
Again, we are so greatful for your blog. It helps to maintain our hope and faith as well as give us the strength and courage we need to continue to fight this battle.
AJ(Citizen Advocate for the Eldery)