To: Terry Hammond
Re: 16th Annual Probate Bench/Bar
There was a distinct trend during the recent campaigns to focus on the irrelevant as a means to avoid dealing with substantive issues. You’ve taken that trend to a new high – focus on substantive issues irrelevantly. A few corrections:
1. “Best practices” are not and can never be understood by an examination of case law. Imagine if the hospitals or the schools used case law to determine the “best practices.” Books are written in a number of fields detailing how to determine the best practices of that field. I would wager much that not one of them uses the criteria of case law. Best practices in guardianship would need to be determined, minimally, by a comparison of goals and outcomes. Those best able to judge them would be the “ward,” those who love the ward, and disinterested bystanders.
2. You have standards for ethical and responsible guardianships. What a farce! Washington State has standards also. Neither the court nor the guardianship board that created those standards can be bothered to apply them. In Washington, almost the only way a guardian can be disciplined is by not paying dues – everything else is fair game – lies, theft, elder abuse – the list is endless. A complaint was submitted to you about two years ago. Your response – “File a police report.” No mention of doing your part and applying those standards you are touting!
3. The “relatives are restless.” Restless is what school children are when a beautiful day beacons and the teacher drones on and on. The relatives are not restless, they are outraged – and they have every right to be outraged.
They are characterized as “having something wrong with them.” Well, perfection is beyond our abilities and, in truth, we all have something wrong with us. That “wrongness” can and usually is mitigated by love and by an ability to use the resources available.
The relatives know that you are not in court fighting to control the life of a penniless person. You take it to court only when, like all good vultures, you smell a carcass to pick dry.
The relatives know you will use every innuendo to convince an already biased court to get them out of the picture. They know they will be smeared, not fairly appraised.
The relatives know you will submit hundreds of pages of charges that were unnecessary and that in no way can be shown to have benefitted the ward. They know that they can examine those charges and see scores of discussions, meetings, calls, visits etc that can never be verified.
They know that a parasitical attorney will leach onto the guardian and participate in every single word that is exchanged for hundreds of dollars an hour. They will recognize that a guardianship is little more than a welfare program for attorneys.
They know that in an unseemly amount of time, the guardianship will empty every single dollar your aged loved one sweated to earn and to save. They will remember the family conversations about the “family” assets – and how they will be used to avoid nursing homes or to send their grandkids to college. They know you will denigrate those memories and portray them as evidence of greed. But they also know, they are a part of every family’s planning and thinking.
They know that the guardian will sell the house as quickly as possible, only because that gives them a large pot of money share and adds to the ward’s dependence. They know also that all the mementos of their childhoods, all their family memories will tossed out or sold, the profits going back to the guardianship.
They know that if they complain about inferior medical care (once the money is in the guardians’ hands, they don’t want it wasted on medical care) or about wanting the ward to be with family, then the guardian will prohibit the family from seeing the ward. The courts have been shamelessly ready to grant such prohibitions in “the best interest of the ward.” The ward will be sentenced to painful medical procedures without the reassurance of loved ones. His or her days will end in loneliness and confusion, without the love and protection of family. This is the ugliest, nastiest abuse of all. I wrote to you two years ago and received a note indicating some disapproval of the practice. Have you once used your platform to try to end this horrific practice?
4. The press is not impressionable. That’s an easy and inaccurate out. We are all impressionable. Anyone hearing the tortured cries of the victims of guardianships will be, and should be, impressed. The press is responsible. There was no “other side” to the ugly stories coming out of LA. The press realized that crimes were being committed and as did the powers that be and the public. Those of us who care about this crime of the twenty-first century are going to continue to try to get word to the press of the horrific abuses being heaped upon our vulnerable citizens and their family.
Your paper and your arguments reflect the sleaziness of the guardianship program. What a waste to not use your position to try to help the program conform to the intention of the legislators and the needs of our vulnerable citizens and, instead, defend it so shallowly.
Ref: National Guardianship Association, "Emerging Trends , The Relative Are Restless" Download here=>> Document.pdf by Terry Hammond, Executive Director and Steven D. Fields and presented to the 16th Annual Probate Bar.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
To: Terry Hammond