Laurie Roberts’ recent Arizona Republic column updating the status of Marie Long, a 90-year-old widow who has become Arizona’s symbol of probate corruption, illustrates the culture of corruption rampant within legal systems across this country. Estate of Denial® was created in 2007 to educate an unsuspecting public as to how probate instruments (wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney) are increasingly used to loot assets of the dead, disabled and incapacitated as well as often positioned to obstruct the inheritance rights of these targets’ legitimate heirs and beneficiaries. With that, let’s talk “property poaching by probate,” actions that happen in communities across the U.S. They most likely happen in yours, I know they happen in mine.
The case of Marie Long has been in the media for nearly three years. Before 2009, she was worth $1.3 million. In 2005, she had a stroke and her family couldn’t agree on her care and living arrangements. The probate system saw opportunity and stepped in. Today, her money is gone and she’s on welfare. The reason: she was targeted by the Arizona legal industry for “property poaching by probate.” The legal industry usually comprises lawyers, judges and court-related personnel or select associates. Read the column – it can happen to anyone!
It also brings to mind two important points – one about lawyers, another about judges. On lawyers, get ready to start seeing a lot of them sued. Legal abuse targets are learning how Bar associations or other attorney oversight entities are generally impotent when it comes to disciplinary actions as their main function more appears that of a protectionist role – however, the protection is for their members, not the public at large. Criminal prosecutions are rare relegating targets to the pay-to-play civil court system. With this, abuse targets with financial means can (and more often) are suing – just don’t count on much luck there as we’ll discuss in the next point. And by the way, abuse targets without financial means have no recourse. Harsh, but reality.
Second important point. Know your judges. None of us can any longer afford to not vote in judicial races or to blindly vote for “that nice man from church.” Today’s candidates unashamedly sport long-running and by-any-standards ugly custody battles, DWI’s, malpractice, negligence and incompetence lawsuits along with public corruption allegations. Even questionably discharged grand jury indictments no longer serve to deter pursuit of a judgeship.
All these issues speak to a candidate’s past conduct and may be an indicator of future performance. You tell people this happens and they laugh or don’t believe you. But folks, it’s time to wise up. Try a review of public records. It’s amazing what you’ll find in your backyard. And when these are the people making decisions about your future or your loved ones, it ceases to be so funny. Also understand that as too many lawyers upon becoming judges never “cut the cord” with their legal brethren, beware candidates who are the lawyers’ choice. It often doesn’t bode well for the public at large. Just ask Marie Long!
Long was targeted by the full force of Arizona’s legal industry. Despite intense media scrutiny and widespread attention, the estate looting perpetrators have been defended or otherwise propped up by prominent Arizonans as too many powerful people can live on image and protect their interests despite the potential harm such actions can bring to average citizens. As her case heads to the Arizona Supreme Court, Marie Long’s case will again exemplify a new step in what’s being sold as justice.
Meanwhile, America beware! Marie Long could be you!
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, a Policy Advisor with Americans for Prosperity – Texas and a Director of Women on the Wall. Lou Ann may be contacted at info@EstateofDenial.com.