‘Once judged incompetent and placed under a conservatorship [or guardianship], a citizen becomes a nonperson, with fewer rights than a convicted felon in a penitentiary.’ — Bloomberg Wealth Manager Editor Robert Case
Only the American gangsterism of the New Underworld Order Crime Syndicate could concoct an unchecked perfidious sistema called “guardianship”. It opens the door to prey on and exploit the vulnerable, the elderly and the disabled. In particular older folks with money or assets are targeted. A whole special court framework exists that takes complete control over unfortunates who might have dementia or who are incapacitated. Once one falls under the control of a legal guardianship, you are dead in the law and can be financially fleeced and looted as well as abused.
“In most states, isolated but well-to-do individuals fall prey to exploitation,” said Ramsey Alwin, vice president of economic security with the National Council on Aging (NCOA) in Washington, D.C. These elderly are more easily identifiable among profiteers who are increasingly networking to gain new foils. “They are scouting candidates who are aged 65 and older at senior centers, hospitals, retirement homes, clinics, banks and estate planning offices.” Nightshade guardians and attorneys also troll marks through the courts and non-profit organizations.
Another opportunity for abuse and exploitation lies in states, where anyone can reportedly initiate a guardianship by simply placing a telephone call to the probate court.
“We receive two to three phone calls a week from families whose elderly parent or family member is being forced into guardianship under the guise of protection by an Adult Protective Service (APS) phone call or visit,” Valdez told MainStreet.
Often, APS or an attorney convinces an unsuspecting family member to file for guardianship at the advice of an attorney or APS. Or it could be family member or friend concerned that an elderly person’s assets are at risk who gets an attorney to help them file for guardianship. Or a nursing home may initiate the petition for guardianship.
Once a person is placed into involuntary guardianship, they lose all of their civil rights and essentially face civil death (aka dead in the law). They cannot vote, marry, contract, divorce, decide where they live, what medical care they can get, what drugs they can take or refuse to take. All of these decisions are assigned to a stranger, in most cases, who will run the person’s life.
Most importantly to the perpetrators of financial exploitation, the mark loses complete control of their money and property. The guardian or the conservator gains full control over every single dime of money that belongs to the incapacitated person, and they don’t even have to tell the person that they are controlling their money or what they are doing with it.
Typically, there are lots and lots of bills from attorneys and guardians racking up enormous fees all to be paid from their newly acquired mark’s estate and without his or her knowledge. A tale is that unethical guardians will never object to the excessive attorney fees. They are answerable to no one. The judges are routinely rubber stamping anything that comes across their desk. These networks of sharks and criminals work a soft-money kickback system.
The trick is that the family member “has no standing” and the gangster guardian gets full backing from the hacks who run the special courts. Friends and family are often in denial and cannot believe the courts are doing this and believe that the family member did something wrong. Meanwhile, grandma may be in a nursing home suffering from dementia and unaware of what is happening to her estate.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report looked into the question of who becomes a guardian. Using two fictitious identities — one with bad credit and one with the Social Security number of a deceased person — the GAO obtained guardianship certification or met certification requirements in the four states where it applied: Illinois, Nevada, New York and North Carolina.
Though certification is intended to provide assurance that guardians are qualified to fulfill their role, none of the courts or certification organizations utilized by these states checked the credit history or validated the Social Security number of the fictitious applicants. An individual who is financially overextended is at a higher risk of engaging in illegal acts to generate funds. In addition, people with criminal convictions could easily conceal their pasts by stealing a deceased person’s identity.
Some examples of what the GAO turned up:
- In Arizona, court-appointed guardians siphoned off millions of dollars from their wards, including $1 million from a 77-year-old woman whose properties and personal belongings, such as her wedding album, were auctioned at a fraction of their cost.
- Public guardians appointed to care for an 88-year-old California woman with dementia, sold the woman’s properties below market value to buyers that included both a relative of the guardian and a city employee. One of the public guardians also moved the ward into various nursing homes without notifying family members, who had to call the police to help them find their relative.
- A Texas probate judge was appointed a guardian for a 91-year-old woman who displayed signs of senility. She later changed her will for the first time in 40 years, bequeathing $250,000 to the probate judge, the court appointed guardian, the judge’s personal accountant, and the court-appointed attorney associated with her case.
- In Michigan, two former public guardians allegedly embezzled $300,000 from at least 50 clients between 1999 and 2009.
In 12 of the GAO’s 20 case studies, state courts failed to oversee guardians after their appointment, allowing the abuse of vulnerable seniors and their assets to continue. Courts ignored criminal and/or financial problems of guardians who served multiple roles with conflicting fiduciary interests. They also failed to review irregularities in guardians’ annual accounting records or sanction delinquent guardians.
Takeaway: Once again, this is unchecked malice, not the conveniently used incompetence excuse.
Isolate, Medicate, Liquidate: The Shocking Story of Attorney Marvin Seigal
For a vivid example of how the guardianship racket works, we highly recommend reading Boston Broadside’s excellent reporting by Lonnie Brennan on the case of retired attorney Marvin Siegel and the fleecing of his $9 million estate. As an attorney, Siegel knew how to create the proper trusts for his two daughter, who began to care for him as he reached the age of 83. Despite the trust, the presence of family, and the fact that he was not suffering from dementia, he became a mark for a network of thieves who captured the trust and looted it. But, as Brennan points out, even if you don’t have money to fleece, you’re still of value to medical rackets that bill state and federal agencies, such as medicare and medicaid, for care prescribed by crooked medical “professionals.”
Read “Warning to Seniors: Rich or Poor, You’re Worth a LOT to Lawyers, Courts, and Service Agencies!”
Red flags to look for:
- Guardian creation of a trust: Remove all oversight by the court as a provision of the trust agreement; guardian becomes trustee; provide that the trustee can do whatever they want at their sole discretion.
- Sell real estate at lowball price: Use “lowball” valuations as a benchmark; don’t list property with Realtors; sell to a land trust, where nobody knows the beneficiary; watch property resold a few months later for a huge increase.
- Maintain guardianship at all costs: Keep family members uninformed; if family members try to become guardian, accuse them of stealing; use the ward’s assets for legal fights to retain guardianship.
- Forced incompetency: Visit assisted-living facilities and establish employee contacts; obtain voluntary limited financial guardianship; if there is money in the estate, do paperwork to force an evaluation of competency; get control over everything and the ward loses all rights.
- Let attorneys in on the scam: Allow them to bill their full rate, even if work is done by a paralegal or assistant.
“A caregiver’s refusal to allow visitors is another red flag,” said Kerry Peck, attorney with Peck Bloom and author of “Alzheimer’s and the Law” (ABA Book Publishing, 2013).
“Dehydration, unusual weight loss, poor hygiene and unsafe living conditions are others,” Peck said.
Experts advise senior citizens in any community to stay close to a group of other retirees for protection. Seniors in states where there is nowhere to hide and no federal recourse can contact an attorney as well as the Administration on Aging’s National Center for Elder Abuse at 1-855-500-3537 and the National Guardianship Association hotline 1-877-326-5992.