Archive for the ‘Conservatorship’ Category

Editorial: Too Quiet in the Court

March 6, 2013

When is a public hearing not a hearing? When you can’t hear what’s going on, what’s the point of having a court hearing open to the public?

In probate court, the speakers are often so quiet you don’t have a clue what’s happening. In this court, many-a-fate of an older person is decided. Many elders are put under conservatorship, and lose their rights and freedom. Persons under conservatorship should have the right to be videotaped in this court.

An example of corruption was when my mother was placed under conservatorship – hundreds of thousands of dollars of her estate went to pay the fees of a profit-seeking network.

Family disunity was exploited. The court-approved evaluators said she had dementia – one said “likely of the Alzheimer’s type.” My mother’s choice of evaluator, a highly qualified neuropsychologist, Dr. Cheryll Smith of Montecito, and her doctor of 25 years, found her competent but this was ignored by the court. She was even given heavy-duty dementia medications, which she refused to take. When the second professional conservator resigned due to my “interference,” my mom was placed in the hands of the Public Guardian, who found her to be competent. The Public Guardian, who had no incentive to portray her in a negative light and plunder her estate, petitioned for the conservatorship to end.

Full Article & Source:
Too Quiet in the Court

Sister Wins Guardianship Battle Over Tennessee Public Guardian

February 23, 2013

After a three-month court battle and a personal plea at the end of a two-hour court hearing, a 78-year-old Nashville resident won her battle Tuesday to have a family member serve as her conservator rather than the county public guardian.

Davidson County Probate Judge David Randy Kennedy ruled that Mary Fowler’s younger sister, Judy Cathell, an Illinois resident, will take over immediately as conservator.

Jeanan Mills Stuart, the public guardian, was appointed as temporary conservator for Fowler late last year over the objections of Robert Walsh, a brother who also lives in Illinois, who petitioned to be conservator instead. Robert Walsh said he was told he couldn’t be the conservator because he lived in another state. No such objection was raised Tuesday to Cathell’s appointment.

Other family members and wards have complained about fees charged by Stuart, the public guardian appointed by Metro Council. She currently charges $225 an hour even when she is doing non-legal work. A handful of wards have fought their conservatorships under Stuart and gotten released.

In this case, Fowler and her family contacted The Tennessean after seeing a story published Sunday about Davidson County’s public guardian. They complained that they had no control over Fowler’s finances and life decisions, and questioned Stuart’s proposal to sell her home. They argued in court that a family member would be better suited to be conservator.

“This is the worst thing I’ve seen in my life,” Robert Walsh said of the entire process.

After testimony by caregivers and relatives, Kennedy stepped down from the bench and took a chair across from Fowler to hear her personal plea, which was barely above a whisper. Seated in a wheelchair, Fowler said that she agreed that her sister could properly care for her. “You need the assistance of your sister,” Kennedy said. Fowler plans to move to Illinois to be closer to her sister and a brother.

Asked after the court session if she was happy with the result, Fowler smiled and said, “Yes, now I have my money back.”

Full Article & Source:
Sister Wins Guardianship Battle Over Tennessee Public Guardian

Linda Kincaid Reports: Guardianship in DC is all about the money

January 16, 2013

Ninety-one year old Jenny Horace is the face of “guardianship” in Washington, DC. Jenny is not allowed to see her daughter. She is held prisoner in her own home. Her refrigerator is kept locked, and she is only allowed to eat at the convenience of her “guardian.”. Jenny’s daughter Laura Francois-Eugene contributed the following comments.

It’s all about the money!

My 91-year-old mother, Jenny Horace, has been in decline for the past few years. Hence, my daily habit of visiting her home in Washington, DC after I get off work at 4:30 p.m. I often put in 10- or 12-hour days as a Program Manager for the federal government, and wouldn’t mind going straight home at the end of my shift. But I like to check-in on my mother first, and make sure she has enough food on hand, and tend to anything else she may need.

Usually these visits are a matter of routine. I have a key to the front door, let myself in and typically find her in the kitchen eating a light dinner she’s prepared, or snoozing in the glare of her living room TV set, or perhaps even in bed.

But the evening of Thursday, April 26, 2012 was different. Significantly, upsettingly different.

I arrived shortly after dusk at 6 p.m., parked on the street in front of my mother’s home, strode up the short walkway to the front door and slipped my key into the lock. But the door did not open.

Strange. It opened just fine exactly 24 hours earlier at the time of my prior visit. But it failed to open on this occasion because between then and now, a court-appointed conservator – a person my mother had never met nor approved, yet who’d been given complete legal power, authority and control over my mother’s life, medical care and financial assets – had the locks changed on the home in an attempt to bar my mom from seeing me.

The conservator’s name is Christina Forbes, a local D.C. attorney.

Full Article & Source:
Guardianship in DC is all about the money

Nebraska Supreme Court Appoints Permanent Commission on Guardianships and Conservatorships, co-chaired by Douglas County Court Judge Susan Bazis and Nebraska Court of Appeals Judge Francie Riedmann

January 5, 2013

Friday, December 21, 2012
The aging of the baby boomer generation is expected to cause a dramatic growth in guardianships and conservatorships in Nebraska over the next two decades. In response to the challenges this increase will cause in the legal community, Chief Justice Mike Heavican and the Nebraska Supreme Court today appointed a Guardian/Conservator Commission to ensure both the personal and financial safety of vulnerable adults under guardianships and conservatorships throughout the state.

The Supreme Court Commission on Guardianships and Conservatorships will be co-chaired by Douglas County Court Judge Susan Bazis and Nebraska Court of Appeals Judge Francie Riedmann. Commission members are listed below.

In response to an unfortunate incident in which a Omaha conservator committed fraud against several wards and other abuses noted across the state, Chief Heavican formed a Task Force on Adult Guardianships and Conservatorships as a temporary measure in 2010. The Task Force identified shortcomings in guardianship/conservatorship oversight practices. The Legislature and the Supreme Court stepped up to improve accountability through laws and enforcement procedures which increased protection of the person and assets of court-supervised adults. The Guardianship Reform Act of 2011 was sponsored by Senator Colby Coash and unanimously passed to become effective January 1, 2012. The Supreme Court adopted new rules to increase accountability for those legally entrusted to provide for the financial and personal well-being of Nebraska wards and protected persons.

The Task Force was discharged after making its report and recommendations. The newly-formed, Supreme Court Commission on Guardianships and Conservatorships will be more long-term, and will have increased participation by judges, clerk magistrates, and members of the Nebraska State Bar Association’s probate section, the State’s Unit on Aging, regional and state elder-care entities, statewide developmental disability serving entities, law enforcement, the banking community, and guardians and conservators.

The Commission’s purpose is to engage in continuing analysis and study of statutes, court rules, and court procedures relating to guardianships and conservatorships; to examine the challenges these laws and procedures pose for court staff, the judiciary, the practicing bar, vulnerable adults and children and their legal guardians and conservators, and other professionals and service providers working with protected persons and wards; to propose solutions or improvements both within and without the judicial branch in response to such challenges; and to support the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission which the Nebraska Supreme Court approves.

Chief Justice Heavican, in his 2012 State of the Judiciary address, noted that “None of us is naïve enough to believe that elderly persons will no longer be subject to abuse. But the statutory changes made by the Legislature, which are being implemented by the judicial branch, will provide for better checks and balances.” He added, “The Nebraska Supreme Court will continue to make every effort to ensure that these legislatively mandated changes to guardianships and conservatorships will be effectively administered.”

Full Article & Source:
Supreme Court Appoints Permanent Commission on Guardianships and Conservatorships, co-chaired by Douglas County Court Judge Susan Bazis and Nebraska Court of Appeals Judge Francie Riedmann

Former conservator sentenced to jail

October 28, 2012

An Edina woman convicted of stealing money while working as a court-appointed guardian and conservator for vulnerable adults has been sentenced to a year in jail.

Terri Ann Hauge, 57, is already serving a 270-day sentence in Hennepin County for stealing from an estate she oversaw. On Sept. 14, a Rice County judge sentenced her to 365 days in jail for convictions of perjury and theft by swindle related to cases she handled. She was also ordered to pay restitution and do 240 hours of community service.

Full Article and Source:
Former conservator sentenced to jail

See Also:
MN: Guilty Plea From Former Guardian/Conservator Terri Ann Hague

Britney Spears emotionally manipulated in conservatorship, says ex nanny

October 20, 2012

Washington, Oct 17: Britney Spears’ former nanny is all set to testify that the pop singer has been emotionally manipulated throughout her court-ordered conservatorship along with offering shocking details, when she takes the stand this week as a witness for the ‘X Factor’ judge’s former manager Sam Lutfi.

Lourdes Torres, who has spent a great deal of time with the Spears family, is also said to present shocking details when she appears as witness for Lutfi in his ongoing breach of contract, libel and defamation case for comments pop singer’s mother Lynne Spears made in a book about her life.

“Lulu is going to be called as a witness by Sam Lutfi’s lawyer to testify about what she witnessed when she was a nanny to Britney’s two children, in the months after the conservatorship was put in place in 2008,” Radar Online quoted a source as saying.

Full Article and Source:
Britney Spears emotionally manipulated in conservatorship, says ex nanny

The Eli Schutts Case: Companion’s Attorney Fires Back With Motion Prompting New Probate Hearing

October 18, 2012

TORRINGTON—Based on a motion citing false accusations of money being improperly withdrawn from a bank, and asking that two people be allowed to define their own relationship, another probate court hearing is scheduled next week in the case of Litchfield Woods Health Care Center resident Eli Schutts, 86.

This hearing, the nursing home client’s second in two months, will address petitioning attorney Matt LeFevre’s request to remove visitation restrictions imposed on Dr. Schutts’ longtime companion, Edith Johnson, 79, of Bethlehem.

The Litchfield County Times began tracking the case of Dr. Schutts, a former professor of philosophy at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, after Ms. Johnson raised concerns about his care, and about how she was being treated by those she encountered through the probate system. (All the stories can be accessed online at

Full Article and Source:
The Eli Schutts Case: Companion’s Attorney Fires Back With Motion Prompting New Probate Hearing

See Also:
Conservator In, Companion Out, in Torrington Probate Case of Eli Schutts; the Drama Promises to Go On

State bar association hears horror stories about problems with Tennessee’s conservatorship law

September 24, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Members of the Tennessee Bar Association heard an earful on Thursday from Tennesseans upset over the state law that they say allows unscrupulous people to take advantage of vulnerable adults.

The conservatorship law is meant to protect adults with diminished capacity because of age, disability, mental health issues or addiction. It allows a judge to appoint someone as a guardian to oversee their affairs. But the system does not always work as intended.

At the Thursday hearing in Nashville, Jewell Tinnon, who is 82 years old, said two grandsons took over her affairs through a conservatorship, selling her car and her house and everything in it. She eventually was able to get out of the conservatorship, but only after she had lost everything.

Tinnon begged the panel of attorneys listening to her testimony for help in finding somewhere to live.
“Next month, I’ll be outdoors,” she said. “I ain’t got nowhere to live.”

Songwriter Danny Tate told the panel he was placed in a conservatorship in 2007 by his brother, who felt he was a drug addict.

“They had no medical evidence, no police reports, no calls to 911, no complaints from neighbors,” he said.

Tate said he was a millionaire before the conservatorship began, with all his bills paid and near-perfect credit. Now he is in bankruptcy and the house where his children were born and raised was sold at auction.

Under a conservatorship, he said, “you cannot vote, marry or enter into a contract. Your signature is not valid.

“A death row inmate has more rights than a conserved ward of the state.”

Another speaker, Ginger Franklin, said a conservator was appointed for her in 2008 after she suffered a traumatic brain injury from a fall.

Although she recovered, the conservatorship process already was under way.

“I lost my home, my car, my job, the majority of my possessions; my credit was trashed — all because I fell down the stairs at my home. If it happened to me it could happen to you or anyone.”
Loretta Threatt and Jeanette Bryant told the panel one of their sisters had taken control of their 88-year-old father’s estate and placed him in various nursing homes and assisted living facilities. They said they are only allowed brief, supervised visits with him and that his pastor is not allowed any visits.

“It’s been done unfair and inhumane, and I feel like it’s unconstitutional,” Bryant said.

National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse President Elaine Renoir said problems with guardian and conservator systems are nationwide. Some people really do need a guardian, she said, but there are not enough protections for those that do not.

She said Tennessee needs better due-process protections that would allow someone who is being considered for a conservatorship to fight it. That includes allowing them to use their money to hire an attorney and letting a jury hear their case if they request it.

Full Article and Source:
State bar association hears horror stories about problems with Tennessee’s conservatorship law

Witnesses’ tales reveal flaws in TN’s conservatorship law

September 21, 2012

Several witnesses who said their rights and property were wrongly taken away in court proceedings joined a retired Wilson County judge on Thursday in calling for changes in the way conservatorships are granted and monitored in Tennessee.

Retired General Sessions Judge Haywood Barry told a Tennessee Bar Association panel that more monitoring is needed for those involved in conservatorships.

“You need some sort of training,” he said, referring to lawyers appointed by the courts to act as fact finders in conservatorship cases.

“The law is in pretty good shape. It’s a matter of getting the judges to go along,” Barry said, adding that monitoring needs to be independent. “You need someone from outside the system,” he said, “then I think they’ll pay attention.”

Thursday’s hearing was the first of four to be held across the state by a bar association panel that plans to make recommendations to the General Assembly, which is considering a series of reforms proposed by state Rep. Gary Odom, a Nashville Democrat.

Tennessee law allows a judge to appoint a conservator to have control over another person’s health care or finances when that person is judged to be incapable of making decisions for him- or herself.

Barry’s testimony followed that of several witnesses, including Jewell Tinnon of Nashville and songwriter Danny Tate, who testified that conservatorships had wrongly stripped them of all their possessions. Both were released from conservatorships after they obtained medical exams to prove their mental capacity.

Full Article and Source:

Witnesses’ tales reveal flaws in TN’s conservatorship law

Dead or alive – James Brown, Danny Tate show threats to property rights thrive

September 9, 2012

That’s a headline to grab attention in Austin, Nashville, L.A. and for entertainers across the country – as it should. Growing use of probate instruments like wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney is putting at risk both individual liberties and property rights. An ongoing legal battle involving the “Godfather of Soul” James Brown’s estate helps illustrate this point as also does the case of Nashville rocker Danny Tate who in past years fought a questionable conservatorship (guardianship) and now is targeted in what appears a series of retaliatory actions for speaking out against the perpetrators of his alleged probate abuse and the “justice” system that allows it to continue. The general public may read or hear of such actions while continuing to enjoy an “it can’t happen to me” mindset, but such confidence is misplaced as a reality emerges in which people at all levels of wealth – be it worth $50,000 to $100,000, $1 million or far more – are targeted for Involuntary Redistribution of Assets (IRA) actions. Wealth is relative and in today’s world – there’s always someone happy to take yours.

Disgruntled family members, wannabe heirs and/or disingenuous legal professionals are often perpetrators of IRA actions. The James Brown estate case includes the full range of these parties. Traditional media sources have widely reported on the wrangling of Brown’s heirs – the legitimate, the disinherited and the wannabe, but only The Newberry Observer is reporting on the multi-layered legal industry machinations that commenced in the years following the singer’s December 2006 death and continue today.

In 2000, Brown established the James Brown “I Feel Good” private foundation to provide scholarships for poor children in South Carolina and Georgia. Brown’s estate plan reportedly stated that upon his death, “the proceeds of his music empire, including royalties to more than 800 songs, would be rolled into his ‘I Feel Good’ Trust.” Attorneys Adele Pope and Robert Buchanan served from 2007 to 2009 as court-appointed fiduciaries of Brown’s estate and trust which includes the “I Feel Good” trust. During Pope’s tenure, Newberry Observer reporter Sue Summer reports that Brown’s music empire – per all previous Brown fiduciaries – was valued at about $100 million less a $15 million dollar debt.

Summer further writes how in late 2008 or early 2009 former South Carolina Attorney General (AG) Henry McMaster and Columbia CPA Russell Bauknight created the “Legacy Trust.” She quotes a Pope legal response describing the trust as “McMaster’s vehicle to take control of Brown’s assets and funnel $50 million from the needy and deserving students James Brown intended to benefit to claimed heirs Brown intentionally disinherited from his worldwide music empire.” AG McMaster appointed current trustee Russell Bauknight who serves at the pleasure of the attorney general. During this timeframe, the estate value was also revised to a reported $4.7 million at-death appraisal despite, per Pope, the estate generating $4 to 5 million a year in royalties alone prior to Brown’s death.

And though Brown’s will and trust included clauses excluding from distributions any parties that challenged his estate plan, McMaster ultimately negotiated a settlement deal giving away more than half of Brown’s music empire to those Brown specifically disinherited, including his former companion Tommie Rae Hynie and about half of his alleged children. Summer describes Tommie Rae Hynie as follows:

After Brown’s death in 2006, Hynie claimed to be Brown’s wife and sued his estate for a share of his $100 million music empire. The two had exchanged vows in 2001, but Hynie was married to another man at the time. When Brown discovered her marriage, he sued Hynie for an annulment. The Aiken County case was settled when Hynie signed an agreement that she would never claim to be Brown’s common-law wife.

With this backdrop, it’s difficult to believe that Brown’s final wishes are being honored. It’s troubling that the state of South Carolina has been such a force in this action. Adele Pope appears to share such sentiments as she continues working to determine how private assets that were once part of a private foundation were then legally placed in an alleged public trust in violation of the asset owner’s clear intention? And if it’s a public trust, why can’t the public access information revealing its details?

Pope has used Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to attempt accessing copies of the trust and documentation regarding the $4.7 million appraisal. The office of current Attorney General Alan Wilson – the office that prosecutes FOIA violations – has resisted all efforts. Instead, Summer reports “Legacy” trustee Bauknight having “threatened Pope with legal action and sanctions if she continued to exercise her rights under the FOIA.”

Most recently, Pope is facing a subpoena related to the diaries of Tommie Rae Hynie. Specifically, Summer writes, Pope is being asked to “turn over all written communications related to the Hynie diaries, including any communications with this reporter, any ‘blogger, website or media outlet.’”

Summer’s latest article describes a long-time Brown friend suggesting “that the diaries could be key in disallowing Hynie’s claim and returning about $25 million to the Brown trust for needy and deserving children.” The diaries were once available to all parties early in the case, but in February 2008, Judge Doyet Early issued an order for a return of the original diary to Hynie attorney Robert Rosen and other copies returned to the Clerk of Court pending a hearing. Four years later, a hearing has yet to be scheduled.

Pope has previously alleged the AG’s office is seeking to conceal public documents which would reveal “improper acts by members of the AG’s office, the previous AG and/or the trustee of the ‘Legacy Trust.’” The Hynie diaries could further support that claim if, as some believe, they reveal Hynie’s ineligibility as a Brown heir and that the AG’s office elected to disregard or neglected to investigate this important point.

Through the state of South Carolina’s revision of James Brown’s estate plan, the entertainer’s property rights appear to have been posthumously disregarded while his designated beneficiaries’ inheritance rights – namely the children for whom he intended scholarships – appear violated. The state’s failure to respect Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests creates concerns over its commitment to transparency and open government as well as its approach to taxpayer accountability. This latest development seems now to flirt with free speech and freedom of the press issues which further heighten the case’s ever-intriguing nature and the warning it should send the public regarding the safety of their own property.

While the James Brown estate gives an important example of posthumous asset diversion, Nashville musician Danny Tate’s experiene shows that while alive – probate actions can also be used to target property and other individual liberties.

Nashville musician Danny Tate admits his struggle with alcohol and drug issues may at a point have merited assistance, but never would he – or most anyone else – have dreamed that such “help” would manifest as the near depletion of his $1.5 million estate and a continued assault on any future prosperity. These, however, are the circumstances directly resulting from a 32-month “temporary” conservatorship petition initiated in October 2007 by his brother David Tate, facilitated by attorney Paul T. Housch and sanctioned by Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Randy Kennedy.

A series of articles entitled Musician Danny Tate’s conservatorship: a case of caring or corruption? (Part One Part Two Part Three) provides the long, sordid details of Tate’s plight. From the beginning of this action at which time David Tate is alleged to have used a fraudulent Durable General Power of Attorney to gain initial control of his brother’s finances and then fund attorney Housch’s October 2007 petitioning for the musician to be conserved, the administrative ease and casualness of process accompanying this life-altering status is noteworthy and should serve as a cautionary tale to all Americans.

For 32 months, Danny Tate simultaneously fought to regain control over not just substance abuse, but also his civil and property rights that some court observers believe were hijacked by the Tennessee probate court. His day in court arrived only after the Middle Tennessee Court of Appeals reversed one of Judge Kennedy’s critical case rulings, an act described by Nashville Scene as “meaning the Probate Court had strayed so far from established legal procedure that an extraordinary judicial slap on the wrist was dealt to Kennedy. More remarkable still, Judge Frank Clement, the jurist who issued the Appeals Court decision, used to sit in Kennedy’s seat in Probate Court.”

This court ruling basically acknowledged the questionable process by which Tate was conserved and forced Judge Kennedy to allow a hearing that would make the 32-month “temporary” conservatorship permanent or else the status would be terminated. Danny Tate’s day in court came on May 24, 2010, and took place in a courtroom full of Tate supporters along with a local television camera crew. The hearing quickly evolved into what seemed a scripted media event with Danny Tate’s release from the conservatorship put front and center for all (especially the cameras) to see. “They saved him” seemed a recurring theme used to justify the 32-month legal ordeal which left Tate destitute.

Full Article & Source:
Dead or alive – James Brown, Danny Tate show threats to property rights thrive

SIGN the IMPEACH RANDY KENNEDY PETITION for Senator Mae Beavers and Represenative Gary Odom

See Also:
Danny Tate Continues Fight Against Probate Court’s Assault on His Personal and Property Rights

Danny Tate Case Not Over by a Long Shot