Disney grandson at forefront of Arizona reform

PHOENIX – Forty-year-old Brad Lund is in the middle of a probate court battle in Maricopa County fighting against family members who are trying to take control of his life and money.

“We’re fighting back, said Sherry Lund, Brad’s stepmother. “We’re fighting for our son’s rights.”

Brad’s parents, Sherry and Bill Lund are fighting relatives who are trying to declare Brad “incapacitated” and take control of his money.

And Brad has a lot of it. He’s the grandson of Walt Disney.

“I’m angry. Our lives have been devastated. The stress has been immense,” Sherry said.

The Lunds hired several attorneys to help Brad keep his money and continue living on his own.

One of those attorneys is Joel Sannes.

In November 2010, Sannes found himself at the center of a probate court controversy.

A judge ordered Sannes arrested for contempt of court because Sannes refused to answer a judge’s questions about who the attorneys were that coordinated with him on one of their motions.

Sannes said that information fell under the attorney-client privilege.

A sheriff’s deputy handcuffed him and took him to a holding cell.

“I’ve never been subject to any proceeding like this before. It was highly unusual,” Sannes said.

Brad has spent about a million dollars trying to stay out of probate court.

In addition to attorneys such as Joel Sannes, his family hired former state legislator turned lobbyist, Laura Knaperek, to try and change state law.

“It just appears that the court is a rubber stamp, that there really is no accountability there, and that they aren’t holding folks accountable,” Knaperek said.

Knaperek’s goal is to stop what she calls, “rampant financial exploitation and abuse” of vulnerable adults.

“They’re taking all their money and they’re left with nothing in their estates and the state then has to take care of these folks,” said Knaperek. “The reality is that the probate court is not doing its job.”

Over the last eight months, the ABC15 Investigators have focused on probate court and cases where judges appointed guardian companies to care for incapacitated adults.

We exposed problems that are now addressed in a reform bill before the legislature.

The bill, HB2424 , would require companies to:

-Follow the family’s wishes which is something we found routinely does not occur.
-Not charge excessive fees, like in the case where a guardian spent thousands of dollars of the client’s money for stuffed animals.
-And budget for future expenses which did not happen in another case in which we found the guardian spent more than a million dollars of the client’s money in less then three years – leaving her a ward of the state.

State Representative David Smith ( R ) of Cave Creek is sponsoring the bill which has made it half way through the legislature.

“We are not here to criticize anybody or put the blame on anybody. What we are here to do is make the system better,” said Smith.

A system attorney Joel Sannes calls flawed.

“I think it says something about the probate process,” Sannes said.

Sannes spoke with us just after his release.

“I was taken outside the court room, put into a holding cell on my own and treated as any person who would be put in a holding cell would be treated. I had to give my belt, I had to give my shoelaces [and I] had to give my tie,” Sannes said. “I was embarrassed to have been put in handcuffs.”

Brad has not been ruled incapacitated. His private doctor testified to his competency.

The court ordered a doctor who regularly evaluates and testifies in these cases, but after Brad’s attorneys questioned his past rulings, the doctor asked to be recused from the case.

Now Brad is waiting what will be his third doctor’s evaluation.

There’s another bill also aimed at reforming probate court. It requires a list of charges and fees upfront before judge rules on guardianship.

Sponsors of both bills want to combine them.

Click here to view testimony against HB2424 by the Legislative Liason to the Arizona Supreme court.

Click here to view testimony in favor of HB2424 by the families who claim to be victims of probate court.

Go to Greed v Guardianship to see all our previous investigative reports on probate court.


Disney grandson at forefront of Arizona reform
Joe Ducey/Maria Tomasch
March 4, 2011