Disregard for the Probate Code, including the Welfare and Institutions Code, Health and Safety Code, and Penal Code, and indifference to the policies and procedures outlined in the Handbook for Conservators, has led to the most basic rights of those most vulnerable dismissed in the probate court system.
Seniors and dependent adults are the most defenseless population in our communities. Many times, probate courts assign guardians or conservators to individuals due their physical or mental limitations or just plain old age to handle his or her financial affairs. Instead, many of them find themselves locked away for the remainder of their lives, without access to loved ones or their resources. Cited in this story are three cases that exemplify what thousands of unsuspecting plaintiffs experience at the hands of the probate court system
“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,” says Ann Bui. “A trust and will has no value, they totally ignore your documents.”
Bui understands this issue far too well. Her 32 year old brother Martin Bui, who suffered brain damage at birth and is unable to communicate verbally, has been kept from her since 2015.
“People who have committed crimes and are in prison have more rights than my brother who is a dependent adult. My mother and I came from Chicago to California because of the Lanterman Act and other laws that protect dependent adults. We came here because we wanted to assure Martin’s rights would remain protected should my mother or I precede him in death,” she added.
But instead, Bui’s temporary conservatorship imposed to support their move from one state to another caused them to lose Martin, whom they cared for his entire life. In Bui’s opinion, losing Martin led to her mother’s death in 2017.
Today, Bui travels over 400 miles to a West Covina facility to see her brother twice a month, where sometimes she is refused visitation at the whim of the Conservator.
Although he can’t speak, Bui says her brother makes gestures and has indicated to her countless times that he wants to go home. She also says her brother has a substantial annuity that can pay for his care and additional services needed to support him.
In the case of Greg McGrath, his aunt’s trust was not adhered to, another abuse of the probate system. Most citizens believe if they have a will and trust they are protected. These legal instruments are bypassed and ignored.
Although a judge herself before slipping into dementia, McGrath’s aunt remarked, “This deplorable act of thievery of our elders has got to stop! There is a tight knit buddy system of fee bouncing and real-estate scams occurring unregulated, enabling court appointed professionals to earn their living adding up billable hours paid for by the life savings of the elderly or mentally handicapped.”
Instead of protecting the elderly and the disabled, the courts are exploiting people for profit.
The Elinor Frerich case was so egregious that is has gained national attention. Frerich, a rich white woman married an African American man. Immediately after authorities were notified of the marriage, they conserved Frerich “for her safety”, annulled the marriage and placed her in a dementia facility where she has been since 2012. She did not have dementia at the time, and has been denied visitors despite over one hundred and forty requests by CEDAR California. The court recently upheld the decision to keep Frerich isolated, which is a crime. Her multi-million dollar estate has now dwindled to a few hundred thousand because of “court cost.”
Linda Kincaid of Cedar California says, “If your estate is under $500,000 they’re not interested in you because its not enough money. The courts have become a profit making center rather than what it was designed to do. Protect the most vulnerable.”
On Saturday, November 3rd at the Alameda International Film Festival, there will be a viewing of The Guardians, a revealing investigative documentary set in Las Vegas that exposes allegations of corruption within the Nevada Guardianship and Family Court system. The viewing will be held at the Alameda Veterans building 2203 Central Avenue at 4:00 pm.