Friday, October 1, 2010

Elders Can Have Zero Rights But is Hiding Out in Puerto Rico the Answer?

When friends or relatives start guardianship cases, the target can often end up losing basic rights we often take for granted. Tonight investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero is on a case with an unusual ending.

WSVN -- Stewart Rosenkrantz finally feels safe in his Fort Lauderdale home again. For more than a year, he was afraid authorities would come and take him away.

His brother filed a petition in court claiming Stewart was being unduly influenced by his roommate. Stewart says his brother was really only interested in taking control of his money and that brought Stewart before general magistrate Alan Methelis.

Across the table from Stewart, his brother Bruce from New York who testified he just wanted to protect Stewart.

Bruce Rosenkrantz: "Because I've seen Stewart being taken advantage of and I felt I had to act."

As a result of the petition, several court appointed experts examined Stewart and after spending only a matter of hours with him determined Stewart could own a gun drive his van but not manage his property.

Stewart Rosenkrantz: "I didn't even know what the guardian program was and all of a sudden I'm going to be subjected to that?"

Stewart was injured in an accident years ago. He won a court settlement for his injuries and has managed his finances ever since.

He hired attorney Ed Dinna to help him fight off his brother.

Ed Dinna: "He's on top of his affairs and he is financially sound, and that's the man that this brother is destroying. He's destroying his health."

Stewart paid for three more evaluations, which all concluded he is competent contradicting that court appointed committee, and his personal doctor testified in a deposition that she never met with one committee member despite the fact that one doctor's report to the court quoted her.

Dr. Anne Blenke: "I've never had a consultation with him."

Stewart was so afraid of how this case would end that he spent months at a home he owns in Puerto Rico hiding out.

Stewart Rosenkrantz: "I was there in constant fear that something would happen. That they would seize my assets, take my home."

And his fears are not without foundation.

Lucille Gitten: "Leave me alone."

Last year, 95-year-old Lucille Gittens was taken from her son's home by a court court appointed guardian after living with him and his family for 30 years. Other family members claimed the son was taking advantage of her. She died not long after in a nursing home. When guardians are appointed, a person can lose all rights.

Scott Tuckman: "It's been many, many times over many years."

So when his brother testified, Stewart had been the victim of exploitation and his future was on the line.

Scott Tuckman: "No one's trying to lock him up. No one's trying to say that he must have constant care. We're saying that someone should manage his property and his affairs for his own protection."

But in the battle of the Rosenkrantz brothers, Stewart won. The magistrate didn't buy Bruce's case.

Stewart Rosenkrantz: "Well I'm very relieved that we won and it's something that other people don't have happen very often."

The court denied his brother's petition and for stewart it is as if the weight of the world has been lifted from his shoulders. He's back to playing with his parrot and taking still photos, but he may never forgive his brother.

Stewart Rosenkrantz: "I won't talk to him, what good would it do?"

His victory is also bittersweet.

Ed Dinna, who fought so hard for Stewart to keep control of his life passed away shortly after winning the case.

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