North Texas couple freed from guardianship, nursing home confinement

North Texas couple freed from guardianship, involuntary nursing home confinement
Lou Ann Anderson
October 25, 2009
www.EstateofDenial.com

It was a special day as Michael and Eugenia Kidd returned to their Richardson home, a home from which they have been gone for nearly a year due to court-ordered guardianships imposed when the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services deemed the couple unable to care for themselves and petitioned for a declaration of incapacitation.  This ruling came via a Collin County probate court after Michael Kidd had surgery for a broken hip and upon the discovery that Eugenia had memory loss issues.

Here’s how KDFW/FOX 4 described Thursday’s court hearing:

This morning, the Kidds appeared in Collin County probate court before Judge Weldon Copeland. Only this time, they had two attorneys on their side arguing that they should be allowed to go home. A new psychiatric evaluation shows Michael has the ability to make decisions for himself and his wife Eugenia doesn’t need guardianship.

“Our position is that the guardianship of the person should be lifted in regards to both Mr. and Mrs. Kidd,” attorney Ad Litem, Melinda Hartnett explained to the judge. The state’s attorney didn’t oppose and Judge Copeland was quick to rule in their favor this time. “We expected them to be able to go home and the doctor’s report was pretty clear that is what should happen and I think everyone realized that,” said the Kidds’ pro bono attorney, Tim Taylor.

Questionable guardianships are not so uncommon, they just rarely are so visible.   Public exposure of this case was a turning point that began with Michael Kidd’s reporting the suspension of he and Eugenia’s personal liberty and confiscation of their property to his former employer KDFW/FOX 4 in Dallas.  When investigative reporter Becky Oliver began broadcasting circumstances of the Kidds’ confinement, things started happening including the couple gaining new legal representation, a cadre of volunteers offering assistance and wide public interest for the original KDFW broadcasts and additional coverage by numerous web-based media outlets.

Exposure of this situation, however, was not without critics and obstacles.  Our own Examiner.com commentaries generated postings challenging that a review of court records would show the state’s application for the guardianships as fully appropriate.  Collin County declined a Freedom of Information Act requesting case information and a waiver of all fees and charges as “a copy of the information primarily benefits the general public” but allowed viewing access so 300 miles driven and $130 (the County has a $1 per page copy rate) secured both 130 pages of pertinent documents and perspective on Collin County’s view of the public’s right to know.

The review confirmed that a network of health care industry providers documented views of incapacitation related to both Michael and Eugenia Kidd, especially and not surprisingly during the time immediately following Michael Kidd’s surgery.  The public can now view and make their own determinations as privately-funded sources have recently made many of these documents easily available online.

Skepticism exists as an ever-growing body of legal cases shows how probate instruments are increasingly used to confiscate the property – and in guardianship cases, the liberty – of hard-working Americans.  A variety of circumstances including potential eligibility for taxpayer-funded services appears to make both high and low net worth individuals potential targets.  While politicians may lament “how can this happen?” to the cameras, most know the realities having heard from constituents and recognizing the lucrative industry surrounding estate administration along with the probate-related income opportunities enjoyed by many political insiders.  Affected constituents are also getting a clear message as their complaints are often stonewalled or else directed to channels that provide the guise but not function of accountability.

Critics of the Kidds’ release will say that the new legal team cherry-picked doctors to produce reports favorable to the couple.  Folks involved in guardianship disputes routinely claim that government and other participants in associated health care/social services networks use similar tactics.

Meanwhile, new friends and old neighbors are joining together to help get the Kidds resettled in their home:

Community activist Russell Fish jumped on board when he heard about the Kidds’ story. He started a Web site for the Kidds and has organized volunteers to help. He says there is still a lot of work to do because the state has destroyed the Kidds’ finances. “We need to clean that up. Their credit is destroyed. Their house went in to foreclosure. They had their car repossessed. These are people who had done all the right things,” said Fish. “They just made the mistake of getting old.”

For the Kidds, after the initial excitement of coming home, the reality started setting in. Michael noticed strange smells, likely from the mold and food that had been rotting in their refrigerator. The heat wasn’t working so a technician had to be called-out. No one had been taking care of their house. The phone and cable television are not connected yet. While they’re happy to be home, they’re also angry.

Much can be said about this case and more will be forthcoming. The Kidds likely needed some help in the time immediately following Michael’s surgery, but should their lives have been permanently overtaken?  A system with freedom and property-usurping power that is executed in the name of public welfare deserves great scrutiny.

Texans should understand that Michael and Eugenia Kidd represent the reality in which we live:  that a person’s liberty and property can literally be hijacked through a casual administrative action with all systems working against any effective recourse in the event of overzealous use, corruption or abuse of current probate systems.

Michael Kidd repeatedly warns how this can happen to anyone.  He’s right.

Lou Ann Anderson is an advocate working to create awareness regarding the Texas probate system and its surrounding culture.  She is the Online Producer at www.EstateofDenial.com and a Policy Advisor with Americans for Prosperity – Texas Foundation.  Lou Ann may be contacted at info@EstateofDenial.com.

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