Victory for Probate Court Reform Movement and the Carter Family


When Cardell Carter, daughters Venus Gist and Kimberly Carter decided to defy court order and remove their wife and mother from a Board and Care facility on Valentine’s Day, they had the backing of the Probate Court Reform Movement.

Maxine Ussery, one of the founders of the 78 member organization said, “We were there when the Carter family removed Katherine Carter from the Board and Care facility where she had been housed since December. Carter suffers from dementia and had degraded rapidly. The Carter’s feared for Mrs. Carter’s health while the Court was spending money for inferior care at the Carter’s expense. We were there again when the court ordered the family to court to face sanctions for their actions.”

Members of the Probate Reform Movement, who’d seen their estates decimated before the same judge believe their presence made all the difference in the world.

Ussery’s brother, Ray Willis said “I noticed a visible reaction by the Judge when he saw us sitting there. I told Judge Reardon when he financially destroyed my family he’d see us again, and I believe it was difficult for him to penalize another family in our presence.”

The conservator and court appointed attorney were seeking sanctions against the Carter family for their actions. Despite their efforts, the Carter’s and the Movement prevailed.

Judge Thomas Reardon, ruled in favor of the family, disallowing sanctions or forcing the family to return Mrs. Carter back to the Board and Care. He ruled against placing the family under oath to testify that 24 hour care was in place in the home. Then dismissed the petition for Mrs. Carter’s conservatorship with the admonition that “You’re going to regret my intervention the next time the family disagrees” and ordered limited conservatorship over the Carter estate until court attorney and fees are paid in full.

Judge Reardon also dismissed the petition over Mr. Carter who was placed in conservatorship because he had challenged court fees and decisions. Mr. Carter is able-bodied, mentally and physically, yet the Judge had stripped Mr. Carter of the right to manage his estate.

Tanya Dennis, coordinator for the Probate Court Reform Movement said, “This is why we discourage anyone from entering into probate to settle their estate. Once you enter probate you’re at the mercy of the court and the court is not your friend. A will and trust can prevent entering probate and it is vital that any disagreement between beneficiaries of the estate settle all differences privately.

There is a predatory climate that prevails in Probate Court and that is why we’re petitioning District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to investigate. We also want the Commission on Judicial Performance to audit probate cases since 2007. We believe the Commission will find minority families are being targeted. That’s why we exist, we’re demanding reform, and helping families keep their estates.” For more information regarding the Probate Court Reform Movement call 510-282-8200.


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