Advocates for reform say current system is a ‘money-making criminal enterprise. Pictured left to right: Linda Flowers, CEDAR California Linda Kincaid, Ann Bui, Senator Nancy Skinner, SHOUT OUT Justice, Tanya Dennis, SHOUT OUT JUSTICE Venus Gist, Laura Holmes and CEDAR California Richard Calhoun.
Last Friday, probate reform groups, CEDAR California and SHOUT OUT Justice met with Senator Nancy Skinner (D)(Oakland) to discuss the “criminal enterprise” occurring within the probate court system.
Linda Kincaid from CEDAR said, “We assumed that we will leave probate court destitute, the court uses our money to fight us, but what’s worse, is the isolation and abuse we’re witnessing of our loved ones under conservatorship.”
Advocates and “victims” of the probate system in attendance shared their experiences.
Ann Bui and her family moved from Florida to California because of the 1969 Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act, a California law that says people with developmental disabilities and their families have a right to get the services and support they need to live like people without disabilities, a law that is being ignored.
Says Bui, “We moved to California to protect my autistic brother because we wanted to assure care once we passed on. The conservatorship was supposed to be temporary while we were transitioning but the State refused to release him back to us. ”
Bui believes the courts retains her brother solely for the hefty annuity available for his care. “Once a conservator is appointed over you, you lose absolutely everything, from the right to vote, to freedom of movement or seeing people you love.
“It’s absolutely horrifying that a person, who has no vested interest in your well-being, is given that kind of power.”
Linda Flowers said her son was taken from her because of paperwork she failed to file with the court. “The court is determining the fate of my son for the rest of his life because I failed to file a status report.
“Now, I cannot see my son unless the visits are supervised violating their own rules that dictates a disabled person’s right to visit with friends and love ones every day in privacy,” Flowers said.
Both Flowers and Bui said their loved ones were not on medication while living at home—now both are heavily medicated. Bui sees signs of abuse on her brother’s body.
“Conservators are self-serving and profiting off of elders and the disabled, instead of considering what’s best for the conservatee,” said SHOUT OUT Justice advocate Venus Gist. “Once the Court conserves your loved one, it’s almost impossible to get the conservatorship lifted—it’s all about the money! The probate court is a money-making criminal enterprise.”
When Kathy Walton stated Court conservators falsify records to their advantage, heads around the table nodded in agreement. “County Counsel Jessica Chia told me to admit to taking $90,000 from my mother’s estate and they’d close their accounting files. Because I wouldn’t, they raked me over the coals for months.”
Advocates requested that Senator Skinner initiate an audit of the Professional Fiduciaries Bureau (PFB).
The PFB was created from the 2006 Act to provide oversight of professional conservators.
Unfortunately, licensed professional fiduciaries act with impunity, and any “oversight” by the PFB is laughable, as they allow conservatee’s estates to be plundered, leaving no assets for heirs.
Despite the depletion of estates, Friday’s meeting focused on neglect and abuse of conservatees.
All spoke of the profound neglect of their loves ones under conservatorship, the extended isolation and physical and/or sexual abuse.
Skinner and her staff listened attentively.
The Senator committed to investigate further, including contacting other legislators who are interested in conservatorship reform.
SHOUT OUT Justice invites interested probate victims and advocates to visit [email protected].