Archive for June, 2012

Disabled Vets’ Families Fight VA Over Fiduciaries

June 30, 2012

Across the country, disabled veterans’ families are in bitter battles with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, trying to oust VA-appointed fiduciaries from their lives.

Two attorneys, Doug Rosinski of Columbia, S.C., and Katrina Eagle of San Diego, have taken on VA in cases involving allegations of bureaucratic mistreatment. Both said regional program managers sometimes overlook the misdeeds of paid fiduciaries while coming down hard on veterans’ relatives who do the work for nothing.

The agency’s policy is that family members get priority in fiduciary appointments, but it does not always work that way. And while many family members serve successfully as fiduciaries for disabled veterans, some get into trouble, often because of a lack of training or knowledge of the rules

R. Dean Slicer, a top regional program manager in Indiana, boasted in a November 2010 email to an Indianapolis bank official that they would have “fun” battling with a war veteran’s daughter. Carolyn Stump, a registered nurse, was trying to free her seriously ailing 81-year-old dad, William Evans, from a fiduciary at the bank who had tangled with the family and had recently been slow paying some bills, according to court records.

Slicer, who last year was promoted to oversee the fiduciary program in 13 states, declined to comment.

Full Article and Source:
Disabled Vets’ Families Fight VA Over Fiduciaries

Missing Florida Millionaire May Be Alive and ‘Suffering from Psychosis’

June 30, 2012

Troubled millionaire Guma Aguiar who disappeared at sea may be alive and in a “delusional state or be suffering from psychosis,” according to a legal document obtained by ABC News and filed by Aguiar’s mother.

Ellen Aguiar filed the court documents with the Broward County Circuit Court on Thursday to become the conservator or temporary guardian of Aguiar’s estate, which is valued at more than $100 million.

Full Article and Source:
Missing Florida Millionaire May Be Alive and ‘Suffering from Psychosis’

Jeffrey Schend’s attorney asks for dismissal because of delays in prosecution

June 29, 2012

APPLETON — A former Appleton guardian accused of stealing about $500,000 from his elderly and disabled clients wants a judge to toss the felony case because of unreasonable delays in his prosecution.

The attorney for Jeffrey M. Schend filed a motion for dismissal in Outagamie County Court on Wednesday.

Schend was charged in May 2011 and demanded a speedy trial in July. His trial was first scheduled for September, but a judge granted prosecutors a postponement so a forensic accountant could investigate Schend’s financial practices.

Michael Petersen, attorney for Schend, said he met with the forensic accountant in March, but hasn’t received a report on the findings. During a court hearing in March, attorneys said the accountant’s review was complete.

“Clearly, it is not the role of the judiciary to baby-sit cases while they are investigated by the state,” wrote Petersen, who also is asking for a ruling that would prohibit prosecutors from refiling charges in the future. “The defendant deserves his day in court.”

Full Article and Source:
Jeffrey Schend’s attorney asks for dismissal because of delays in prosecution

See Also:
Bonds in Jeffrey M. Schend’s Appleton guardian case won’t cover losses

‘Bringing Dorothy Home’

June 29, 2012

Purpose: to raise awareness of the growing phenomenon of nursing homes bypassing families’ legally established authority in order to seize the assets of their “residents” ~ whether there by choice, or, as in my mother’s case, not. Families can even lose their rights to VISIT their loved ones, as these predators follow their usual procedure of: “Isolate, Medicate, Liquidate.”

I kept my mother out of a nursing home for more than seven years before she went to Wilton Meadows for stroke rehab and was kidnapped by them. We also paid considerably into a “state-wide asset protection plan” ~ a partnership between her LTC insurance carrier [Met Life] and the state, to protect the house. This was paid into for several years, earning “credits” against potential Medicaid claims on the property. Under the Medicaid “Caregiver’s Exception,” I am also entitled to keep the house. And, finally, under her Durable POA I also could have (and should have) transferred everything into my own name. This never would have happened to her if I had done so, to my terrible regret now. I was never in a rush to do that, however, because I never intended to allow my mother to go into a nursing home. It was always my intention to create whatever she needed at home. Had I ever anticipated this turn of events, I would have sold the Roton Point property to pay for the house, and put it into my name, for her protection. But I was preserving her familiar status quo for her sake and simplicity for tax purposes.

Blog: Bringing Dorothy Home

New Jersey Considers Adopting New Elder Law Protections

June 29, 2012

If lawmakers in New Jersey adopt a newly proposed law, the state will join about 30 others that have enacted so-called anti-”granny snatching” legislation. Known as the New Jersey Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act, the proposed law would make it much more difficult for family members with incapacitated elderly relatives to circumvent the state adult guardianship protections.

When a state court appoints an adult guardian for an elderly person, it typically appoints a family member to that position. With granny snatching, a family member who was unhappy with the guardianship determination can move the elderly person to a new state and ask a court in that state to name the family member as the guardian. If the court agrees, the new guardian will effectively from the old guardian’s rights because the old guardian was given powers under a New Jersey court and not the new states court.

Full Article and Source:
New Jersey Considers Adopting New Elder Law Protections

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors turns blind eye to elder abuse

June 28, 2012

At numerous Board of Supervisor meetings, county residents expressed concerns about elder abuse by the Santa Clara County public guardian. Residents specifically addressed the plight of Gisela Riordan, an 84-year-old San Jose resident who is unlawfully imprisoned and isolated at Villa Fontana. The San Jose residential care facility for the elderly is acting on unlawful instructions from the public guardian.

Gisela Riordan is denied visitation, phone calls, and mail. Her dentures are missing. She needs eyeglasses. Her hearing aid is locked at the nurse’s station. She has lost 1/3 of her body weight.

Elder advocates also introduced “Rose”, another victim of abuse by the public guardian. Rose is also imprisoned and isolated at Villa Fontana. Rose’s family asked that her true name be kept confidential, as they fear retaliation against their loved one.

Full Article and Source:
Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors turns blind eye to elder abuse

Florida: When Are Guardians and Attorneys Entitled to Fees in Contested Guardianships?

June 28, 2012

Thorpe v. Myers, — So.3d —-, 2011 WL 2731937 (Fla. 2d DCA Jul 15, 2011)

In this case a 93-year-old ward had nine children who seemingly couldn’t agree that the sky was blue. After lengthy litigation, the trial court appointed a plenary guardian for the ward, who suffered from dementia. In separate appeals, the emergency temporary guardian and attorneys for two of the children appealed the court’s denial of their respective fee requests.

Guardian’s Fees:

The 2d DCA held that the trial court’s complete denial of fees to the guardian was based on a misreading of F.S. 744.108(1), which requires that attorneys, but not guardians, demonstrate the “beneficial nature of services rendered” to the ward. Unlike those of attorneys, guardians’ services are presumed to benefit the ward. However, a circuit court may reduce the requested compensation to the extent that the guardian’s services were “unnecessary or unproductive.”

Not only was the legal basis for denying the guardian any compensation flawed, but so too was the factual basis, the 2d DCA found. It disagreed with the circuit court’s finding that the guardian’s services “were of minimal, if any[,] benefit to the Ward, and were intended to benefit [two of the Ward’s children] in the Petition for Emergency Temporary Guardianship.” Instead, there was “nothing in the record suggesting that [the guardian] was working for [the two children] in disregard of her obligation to act in the best interests of the Ward. . . . The guardian works in the interest of the ward under the supervision and control of the court, not at the behest of the person or persons who sought the appointment.”

As evidence to support that claim, the 2d DCA pointed out that the “circuit court actually extended [the guardian’s] tenure as emergency temporary guardian for another four months.” It would make little sense, the 2d DCA implied, for a guardian providing “minimal, if any, benefit” to be asked to continue her responsibilities.

Attorneys’ Fees:

The 2d DCA also addressed the circuit’s order denial of attorney’s fees and costs requested by the attorneys of the two children of the Ward who submitted the original petition for guardianship. As alluded to above, attorneys are entitled to “reasonable compensation” only to the extent that their services demonstrably benefit the ward.

The circuit court found that the two children’s attorneys did not provide any services for the ward. By an abuse of discretion standard, the 2d DCA acknowledged that some of the attorneys’ services amounted to “unproductive litigation over who would be appointed as guardian or other goals that did not benefit the Ward or her estate.”

2d DCA: When Are Guardians and Attorneys Entitled to Fees in Contested Guardianship Proceedings?

CT: Restructured Probate Court System Sends Dollars Back to State’s Coffers

June 28, 2012

Two years removed from the verge of fiscal collapse, Connecticut’s restructured Probate Court system has returned more than $10 million to state’s coffers over the past two fiscal years.

And though the restructured system’s administrative budget now includes an annual assist from the General Fund, probate courts will return nearly three-quarters of the state money they received this fiscal year.

“Court consolidation dramatically cut costs, and the savings will benefit the taxpayers of the state on an ongoing basis,” Judge Paul J. Knierim, the state’s probate court administrator, said Friday.

The courts, which are projected to spend $33.5 million this fiscal year, cover the bulk of their operating costs through service fees, though the system also received $7.5 million from the state budget.

Knierim’s office reported last week that $5.5 million of those dollars will be going back.

One of the oldest probate courts systems in the nation, with roots dating back over 300 years, the Connecticut courts underwent a dramatic restructuring in January 2011 to reverse growing financial woes.

The state’s 117 court districts were consolidated into 54, while judges’ salaries were reset based on caseloads and capped at 75 percent of the $146,780 annual salary for a Superior Court judge.

Knierim said that these changes have kept probate judges’ pay essentially flat since the restructuring. That, along with the overall reduction in judicial posts, has been the biggest, single, cost-control measure.

Full Artice and Source:
Restructured Probate Court System Sends Dollars Back to State’s Coffers

Panel Rules Against Lawyer in Smoron Probate Case

June 27, 2012

A panel that oversees the professional conduct of state lawyers found that local attorney John Nugent violated ethics laws in his handling of the estate of Josephine Smoron, according to a decision released this week.

The Statewide Grievance Committee ruled that Nugent knowingly ignored knowledge that Smoron had a signed will leaving her 80- to 90-acre farm to caretaker Samuel Manzo. It further found that Nugent sought to intentionally deceive and defraud Smoron of her final wishes, and lied during testimony last fall.

The committee ordered that Nugent be reprimanded for the violations, which means a copy of its findings will be published in the state’s law journal.

“We conclude that the respondent knew that Ms. Smoron had a will that left her estate to the complainant,” the report stated. “Rather than actively search for this will and confirm Ms. Smoron’s testamentary wishes, however, the respondent chose to ignore the information presented to him and develop a mechanism that would give him control over Ms. Smoron’s estate after her death and allow him to determine who would inherit her estate.”

Nugent’s attorney, James Sullivan, said the ruling was based on vague rules of administration of justice and he will appeal the decision.

“We disagree with the findings and we are going to request a hearing,” Sullivan said.

Nugent was Smoron’s conservator when she died in June 2009. Several months before she died, Nugent created two trusts and funded them with her cash assets and real estate while naming himself trustee. He also made a deal with local developer Carl Verderame to buy the property for $1.5 million for use as an access road to Verderame’s proposed sports complex off Interstate 84. Three local churches were to be named beneficiaries, not Manzo.

Shortly after Smoron’s death, Manzo learned there was only $6,000 in the estate and hired local attorney Barry Pontolillo. The case is now in the hands of three probate courts and Hartford Superior Court.

Full Article and Source:
Panel Rules Against Nugent in Southington Probate Case

See Also:
Jambed Gears of Justice in CT Probate Case Over Farm

OH: Bill Aimed at Helping Victims of Elder Abuse

June 27, 2012

Ohio Rep. Mike Dovilla (R-Berea) is sponsoring a bill aimed at helping victims of elder abuse and financial exploitation.

According to a press release from Gov. Mike DeWine’s office, the Ohio Elder Justice Act will update current law to improve the response to elder abuse victims by strengthening Adult Protective Services in Ohio. Dovilla worked with DeWine’s Elder Abuse Commission to draft the proposed legislation.

Some of the key provisions of the bill include:

• Requirement of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to create a registry to help identify patterns of reported abuse.

• Obligation of employees in various financial service industries to report suspected elder abuse to help prevent the elderly from falling victim to financial crimes.

• Establishment of a statewide Elder Abuse Commission to increase awareness and research, formulate and recommend strategies to improve policy, funding and programming, and identify opportunities to coordinate statewide efforts to address elder abuse.

Bill Aimed at Helping Victims of Elder Abuse