Elderly find guardianships can get expensive (WA)

They’re brought in by the courts to take care of vulnerable adults, who can’t care for themselves.  Legal guardians are usually family members, but in cases where that won’t work a professional guardian may step in.  Some seniors are finding out having their lives run by someone else is an expensive situation.

Friday morning, a judge approved nearly $10,000 in charges to Geraldine Strege to cover fees charged by her court appointed professional guardian.

An attorney for the guardian said there will be another invoice for work she’s done since February. Court records show her guardian, Pam Privette, billed Strege $95 perhour for handling Strege’s affairs.

Strege wound up in the care of a guardian after some of her kids accused others of stealing from her. Because of those allegations, Judge Katherine Stolz said it was not appropriate to have a member of the family oversee Stege’s affairs.

Guardians are monitored by a Certified Professional Guardian Board.  When some of Strege’s family members filed a complaint with the board; Strege had to pay the guardians legal bills.  Three attorneys at Friday’s hearing objected to the charge but the judge allowed it.

“She charged the estate for spending her time and the attorney charged the estate for his time responding to her grievance,” attorney Matthew Davis explained.

Attorneys say Privette’s charges are in-line with many other professional guardians.  Guardians set their own rates, but they are subject to the court’s approval.

Along with control of her money, the guardian decides who can and cannot visit Strege, in her care facility. Long-time friend Frances Hendrix is among those who have been turned away.  “I wouldn’t make a pest of myself; but I would go see her once in a while,” Hendrix said.

Between her guardian fees, attorney fees, health-care management charges and other professional services, Strege’s estate has spent thousands of dollars. Estate planning attorney Richard Gregorek said guardianships are not cheap. “Many times, it takes every dime they have,” Gregorek explained.

Gregoreck, who hosts a weekly radio show, said stories of mismanagement and hefty fees by guardians are becoming more common. Gergoreck says there are good guardians out there but warns seniors the best protection is planning ahead.

“With a really well-drafted power of attorney, health care directives, a living will and those types of things.” Gregorek said about what’s need. He says it’s important to put together a plan long before someone reaches an advanced age. And he also recommends checking that plan every year and making adjustments as life changes occur.

“Guardianships could be avoided in 80-90 percent of cases, if people did some proper planning,” Gregorek said.


Elderly find guardianships can get expensive
May 13, 2011
Q13 FOX News Online