From California

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Corruption is running ramped in the Probate Court. It sickens me. Many elder’s wishes are being ignored while the Probate Judge allows attorneys, conservators, public guardians and trustees to steal the assets. Just as in many or all counties in the United States, elders are forcibly conserved, placed in a nursing facility where they are isolated, drugged and left to die as the predators concentrate on eliminating the assets by self dealing.

Do you know anyone in Sacramento or other areas of northern California that has the ethics, honesty and guts to tackle these horrific problems?

Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated.

Stories of Denial
  • Jaycee Sims

    I ran into the same thing in Marin County, Ca. In one small, but affluent suburb, over 7 seniors have been conserved against their will in the past 3 years, while needy but low income seniors reported by police as in need in other areas are being ignored. In my case, an elderly asian woman was made a ward of the court without proof of financial exploitation or competency issues. She spoke freely and clearly to the judge, saying she didn’t want nor felt she needed a conservator, yet he removed all her rights anyway. Worse still is that this was done without counsel or formal evaluation showing lack of capacity! He physician has gone on record as feeling “manipulated by court personel into signing adverse statements regarding her patient” The court appointed attorney representing her failed to show, yet the hearing went on over protests. It got worse with the final conservatorship hearing over a year later. Neither her court appointed attorney, nor guardian were aware she wasn’t a ciitizen or that she’d fled the country, fearing the string of strangers the public guardian constantly sent to the house for hours every day. I was there on one occassion when a young, overweight, white female, about age 25 arrived dressed in a T-shirt, jeans and rubber thongs, stating she was the “sitter” for the day. She had no visible identification and returned to her car to bring only a drivers license and old paystub to have us believe she’d been sent by the home health agency being paid $22.00 / hr to take care of the “ward”. I then had a conversation with the RN case manager and learned that she’d never even been to this house nor met the ward since the conservatorship started. The records indicate it was this very RN who the APS worker had asked to evaluate the woman to see if she needed a guardian!
    The “ward” was unaware the final conservatorship hearing had been scheduled so didn’t appear in court that day. Rather than protesting at all, or standing up for her client, the court appointed attorney simply “signed off” on the case, allowing the conservatorship to be final. It was VERY lucrative for her, because she was then paid a hefty sum to manage legal affairs for the woman for the rest of her life! Her recent bill is over $10,000.00. It’s a terrible scam often perpetrated by APS workers. They learn of a vulnerable senior through routine post hospital visits and other means then send in local attorneys and home health agencies to determine “need”. If the individual is conserved, they are then assigned to the same attorneys and home health agencies for oversight! It’s a very lucrative “racket” for those dealing with elders in the area, and I’ve learned at the conferences I’ve attended that the same is happening throughout this state. It’s a virtual feeding frenzy upon wealthy seniors with unique circumstance making them easier targets.
    Fortunately, through hours of advocacy on my part, this case ended well when Marin County realized they’d be in a world of hurt should this case be escalated to a higher court. The court appointed attorney who’s been in this business almost 30 years stated she’d NEVER contested even ONE conservatorship! How frightening is that? We could have lost it all by following her advice that we simply allow the guardian to request a competency eval and use it when complete. A local attorney cautioned me about this stating that we should have a private one done. After 8 hrs of evaluation over two days by a PhD trained in elder evals, the “patient” was found to be very lucid, but suffering from stress, early memory issues, and language barriers! He was appauled that she’d been conserved at all! Please remember that once conserved, this woman lost the ability to hire her own attorney or health care professional. She couldn’t seek her own advocates but was at the mercy of the guardian and appointed attorney to help her get released. I feel certain that anyone performing a competency eval for the county would have found her incompetent and that would have been devastating. Fortunately Marin County quickly “backed down” upon seeing the eval and simply reversed the conservatorship without a hearing! I’m sure they didn’t want to expose themselves an embarrassing jury trial that surely would have attracted wide local media attention. The new laws enacted to protect these senior in this state CANNOT WORK because they rely on APS and the courts to insure the seniors receive “due process” which is a huge conflict of interest given this case. These organizations are supposed to keep seniors independent, and insure their estate plans are intact, NOT become predators on the family inheritances!
    It’s very easy for them to become predators because the public is naive about the power of the courts until it’s too late. The public is trusting of the process, unable to believe something like this could happen. It’s not supposed to be able to happen, but judges can apparently do anything and feed any business in town! We were asked repeatedly how this got this far. It was simple. We didn’t believe that APS would try to conserve an independent, lucid, active member of the community. We then thought we could find a good lawyer to intervene, and never expected a judge willing to ignore due process! What we learned is that are virtually no lawyers in Marin county who deal with contested guardianships and conservatorship! More money can be made by writing and carrying out estate plans, or representing guardians and conservators! We then trusted the courts, not believing a judge would hold a hearing when the defendant’s counsel failed to attend, and in the absence of any formal document indicating lack of capacity. Surely he wouldn’t continue after hearing her clear, lucid speech as to why she could continue to handle her own affairs. Most disgraceful is the courts ability to remove all personal rights afterwards. Rights to choose or hire your own health care providers, and attorney should never be removed under any, but the most dire, document situation. When she left the room she had no rights as a live human being on this planet, AND all of her assets had been frozen and seized! We actually loved seeing the faces of the attorney and guardian in court when their “ward” didn’t show! It was great to see the judges expression when he learned they had no idea that she’d left the country months earlier without their knowlege! How could a now indigent, incompetent 78 year old do that on her own? It didn’t matter! He simply entrusted her care right back to the individuals who were so negligent, without her present! A competent, ethical attorney would have sought a continuance, but not this attorney in this court! People are more desparate than ever since Bernie Madoff created imaginary money resulting in the loss of safety nets and the family fortunes. Middle class people now rely on their inheritances as a backup for their older years. We must do something to protect us from exploitation by the very people entrusted with protecting us and prosecuting the perps.