NASGA Member Seeks Lawyer to Sue Over Her Trust Fund

Nineteen months after a judge ruled that Michelle Cohen should be allowed to handle her own affairs, the mentally ill woman is living out of her van. She is still searching for an attorney willing to help her sue the banks that handled her trust fund, once worth half a million dollars.

She’s spent years trying to get lawyers to listen and to help her. When she had money, a few signed on to represent her in her attempts to get her trust money released and to help her fight against efforts to place her under state guardianship.

But now she’s destitute. She spends hours each week calling lawyer offices, hoping to find someone to represent her against the banks that oversaw the trust fund left to her by her grandmother.

“I’ve probably made thousands of calls,” Cohen, 42, said. “And I’ll make as many as it takes until I find someone to help me. I think it’s despicable about what they’ve done to me. They’ve run me into poverty.”

Cohen once had a good deal of money. Her paternal grandmother left her the Henrietta Neufeld Cohen Trust, which at one point was worth about $500,000. The trust was first managed by Wachovia, which was purchased in late 2008 by Wells Fargo . In January 2009, the Flower Mound branch of American National Bank took over managing the account, which had about $135,000 left at that point.

Cohen had difficult relationships with the trust managers at the banks. She believed that the money belonged to her and that she should be allowed to control the account. She bought a van, a home in Wisconsin and a motorcycle for a friend. She purchased DVDs and spent freely on extended-stay hotels and restaurant meals. She spent tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers to try to break the trust.

She owed $100,000 and had about $50,000 left when American National Bank filed for a limited permanent guardianship of her and the estate in June 2009.

“Nothing good will happen if I have a guardian,” she said. “I’ll probably wind up in a group home. I have a lot to fear about that.”

Under guardianship, a state judge would appoint someone to make decisions regarding the person’s property, medical care, living arrangements and potentially all personal and financial decisions.

Denton County Probate Judge Don Windle dismissed the case in January 2010, saying there was little point in ordering restrictions when there was little money left to restrict. He said he would leave it to Cohen to pursue attorneys to investigate whether any of the prior trustees breached their fiduciary duty during their oversight of the trust.

The remaining money in the trust fund was drained by attorney fees because lawyers on both sides of the case were legally able to bill the trust fund.

“They spent everything I had in trying to get me found incompetent,” Cohen said.

Full Article and Source:
Mentally Ill Woman Seeks Lawyer to Sue Banks Over Her Trust Fund

Note: Michelle Cohen is a member of NASGA.

6 Responses to “NASGA Member Seeks Lawyer to Sue Over Her Trust Fund”

  1. Betty Says:

    We're all hoping you find a good lawyer, Michelle, and that you're ok.

  2. Scott Says:

    I think Michelle should have been able to handle her own affairs all along. Look what her "protectors" did to her trust fund? Anybody could have done better than that.

  3. StandUp Says:

    Somebody step up and help her! Surely there is a lawyer out there who wants to right this terrible wrong!

  4. StandUp Says:

    Somebody step up and help her! Surely there is a lawyer out there who wants to right this terrible wrong!

  5. jerri Says:

    another guardianship case of billing frenzy lawyers win ward loses is there any other ending?

  6. tvfields Says:

    Sign petition at wh.gov/gJG (case sensitive) to support proposed government reform needed to end legal abuse

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