Elderly adults, the disabled and their advocates packed a San Jose auditorium Wednesday, expressing outrage over excessive fees charged by court-appointed estate managers who are now under fire as a state lawmaker and Santa Clara County’s top judge promised action.
One woman described losing everything to trustees, whose fees landed the onetime philanthropist on food stamps. Another lamented a $182,000 bill for nine months’ work billed to her ex-husband’s estate.
“I’m a senior and I’ve lost everything,” Annette Aiassa told Judge Brian Walsh and state Assemblyman Jim Beall, D-San Jose. “So I’m wondering, can you do anything for me?”
Their pleas for help came in the first public hearing over proposed reforms since this newspaper’s investigation “Loss of Trust” exposed how permissive Santa Clara County’s court has been over the years as some private conservators hand six-figure bills to incapacitated adults under the court’s watch.
Less than a month after the newspaper’s story, the court convened a panel that has proposed new rules to curb fees that, in some cases, are double what neighboring counties allow.
Local judges vote Nov. 15 before sending the new rules to state officials.
If approved, as of Jan. 1, conservators here would be expected to charge hourly rates between $115 and $165 — half what many now charge. Routine tasks such as opening mail and grocery shopping could not be billed at rates higher than $55 an hour.
Realtor Richard Calhoun said the proposed changes sound good but do not go far enough. “Cutting the hourly rate is fine,” Calhoun said, “but they could double the work that they do.”
Walsh told the crowd that the court is committed to change, noting that Santa Clara County is likely to pass the strictest set of guidelines on conservator fees in the state. But he described the difficulty crafting rules that are not “too strict,” thereby driving away “caring and capable people.”
Full Article and Source:
Rate Change Plan Seeks to Rein in Expensive Estate Manager Fees
Special Report: Loss of Trust