Probate courts aren’t generally viewed as a common locale for the fight of a lifetime, but in Fugitive from Injustice, Nashville musician Danny Tate shares a detailed account that exposes the calculated, systemic abuse that too often resides in these often quiet and seemingly unobtrusive legal venues.
In October 2007, David Tate went before Davidson County Probate Judge Randy Kennedy claiming his brother Danny’s drug addiction had reached a life-threatening point. Danny Tate’s history of dependence also included an 18-year run of sobriety. Signing a power of attorney so his brother could pay bills while Tate was in rehab was a step intended to help return the musician to that more productive life course. Never did he dream that this power, along with his financial resources, would be used to institute a conservatorship effectively removing his civil and property rights.
The public is generally disinterested or dismissive of probate abuse – at least until it happens to them. Disinterest manifests with a common position that “these things can’t happen” while the dismissive stance usually includes “you must have done something to deserve it.” Besides being patently wrong on both counts, these mindsets are also dangerously naïve.
Disgruntled family members, wannabe heirs and/or unscrupulous attorneys abundantly populate our society. These parties in concert with assorted members of the legal industry (judges and other court-related personnel) can functionally weaponize the court system to the total detriment of an unsuspecting target.
Financial professionals from CPAs to banks sometimes play a role. Conservatorship abuse cases from across the country surface routinely reveal Adult Protective Services (APS) employees, professional guardians, social workers as well as medical personnel responsible for evaluations (physical and psychological) and even proprietors of facilities that house incapacitated or disabled individuals involving themselves in questionably motivated cases. Call it asset looting, property poaching or estate hijacking – any of these parties can (and too often do) derive direct or indirect benefit from abusive probate actions.
Fugitive from Injustice details the mechanics used under this guise of justice to deconstruct the life of a formerly successful, productive – though admittedly flawed – individual. Read and learn. It’s a storyline that parallels any John Grisham plot although far more horrific considering it’s also reality. Truth indeed is stranger (and more dangerous) than fiction.
Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist. A former contributor at Watchdog Arena and Raging Elephants Radio, she writes and speaks on a variety of public policy topics. She additionally addresses the growing issue of probate abuse as the Creator and Online Producer at Estate of Denial®, a web site that “shines light on the dark side of estate management” by providing news, analysis and commentary regarding probate corruption and estate abuse cases.