AARP Magazine recently published a lengthy article on a contentious guardianship. If you would like to read the entire article, it can be found here: https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/financial-legal/info-2018/court-ordered-guardianship-separates-family.html. This newsletter will hit some highlights.
Although there have been hundreds of cases of fraud, abuse and neglect involving both family and professional guardianships, I want to focus on just how horrible guardianship can be, even when everyone is operating within the letter of the law. The Kise Davis story, reported by AARP, is emblematic.
Kise was living in Las Cruces, NM when she began sliding into dementia at age 85. Her stepson, Larry, lived with his wife in Sonoma, Ca. Although he was close to his stepmother and agent under her power of attorney, distance proved a problem. Despite speaking with her regularly, visiting when he could, and keeping tabs through local contacts, he was notified by one of Kise’s neighbors that a van had picked her up and taken her to an institution. It turns out that Kise had changed her power of attorney to a local handyman who had helped her on occasion and that the handyman “got in over his head.” So, a professional guardian was appointed, without prior notice to Larry, because he was not a blood relative and therefore not required to be notified under New Mexico law. The professional guardian had moved Kise into a locked down memory care facility.
Larry assumed he could come down and quickly rectify the situation, but he was sorely mistaken. The professional guardian and their attorneys fought him at every turn, depicting him as a villain. They thought they were protecting Kise. Larry had to hire a litigating attorney. It took over a year to free his stepmother from captivity and move her near to him. He spent over $50,000.00 on his own attorneys and the professional guardian and their attorneys spent over $140,000.00 of Kise’s money. Kise kept telling Larry that she was locked up in an “insane asylum”. The emotional toll of Kise’s living as a hostage through a 14 month nightmare was even worse.
This story is far too typical. Our next newsletter will focus on specific ways to prevent something like this happening to you or your loved ones.