By: Rana Goodman - Political Editor
There is a knock on your door and the caregiver who has stopped by to check on your wife motions you to sit. He will answer the door for you.
Two people enter; a woman and a man. They approach you and the woman says: “Mr. X, I am an officer of the court. You and your wife need to come with me.”
You ask: “Why, what have I done? Go with you where?”
She responds. “You have three choices. I can have you arrested, you can go to the assisted living facility that I have chosen for you, or you can be taken to a mental facility.”
This is what happened to a couple I recently interviewed. When the couple asked to see a warrant or legal document ordering them to go with her, she simply showed her business card (which identified her as a private guardian) and stated that legal papers would arrive within the next few hours. Those three hours stretched into weeks.
For the three days after this couple were whisked away, their adult daughter frantically tried to locate them. Eventually, a notice was taped on their front door stating that they had been moved to an assisted living facility miles away from their home.
Once the daughter's finally locates her parents, she learns that an unknown private guardian had been assigned by the family court, without a hearing that included her parents. The court document for this action contained two blatantly false statements: that this daughter (and only child) never sees the parents and is an addict, and that the husband has dementia and can no longer care for his wife.
In my interview with this elderly couple, I found the husband (who has been the primary caregiver for his wife for the last 19 of their 50 years of marriage) to be the most articulate, soft spoken person I have met in a very long time. His only concern was her happiness and well-being knowing that she is now wheelchair bound and in the latter stages of leukemia.
He said her health was the sole reason he didn’t make a scene and fight back when they were literally (legally) kidnapped from their home. “But,” he added, “ I can tell you, I now know what the Jews must have felt like in World War II.”
I’m sure you’re asking how this could happen:
His pain management doctor had, two weeks before this occurred, paid a home visit to ostensibly see the couple’s art collection. Thereafter, the doctor submitted a "To Whom it May Concern" letter that "somehow" made its way to this private (for profit) guardian stating:
(a) the client has dementia, misses appointments, won't take his medicine and constantly forgets things;
(b) the husband may harm himself or his wife who is very ill; and
(c) it would be harmful for the couple to attend the court hearing because they wouldn't understand what was happening anyway.
We interviewed another victim, a veteran, married 60 years. He had been taking care of his wife but needed to go to California for cancer surgery. While he was there, some friends were checking in on her to make sure she was okay.
One man that the husband worked with, took it upon himself to call the Nevada Department of Aging to make sure that the friends were doing all that was needed in the husband’s absence.
This government agency then decided that she needed to be placed with a guardian.
Now why this was not the public guardian, (due to the couple's minimal income and savings) but to a private guardianship is still being investigated. What we do know is that the private guardian in the course of "protecting their new ward" retained an attorney to perform legal “services” at the rate of $400.00 per hour - a fee this couple could not afford.
By the time the husband returned from California, $14,000 had been drained from their account. I sat in court while these fees were questioned - to no avail as of yet.
Did you know that guardianship court orders routinely authorizes the revocation of any power of attorney and for the guardian to obtain ALL confidential financial information of the senior - including bank statements, canceled checks, withdrawal authorizations from financial institutions (such as brokerage or mutual fund firms) the Social Security administration, pension benefits (whether such accounts reflect the name of the senior individually, or with one other person) or to close safe deposit boxes and even petition the court to change your will or your trust?
The standard court order makes it very clear that if your attorney advises that having a power of attorney, a will or a trust makes you safe from the hazards of a guardianship, they are mistaken; it does not.
And while I would be the first one to admit that I am far from an expert on guardianship issues, it is my intention to become one. Along with Publisher Dan, we even took the guardianship class offered by the public guardian and are now certified.
Believe me, we are not done investigating this issue and will have more to report.
(Editor’s Note: The Vegas Voice would like to thank and recognize former Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Miller for his insight and previous reporting on this issue and Rick Black who is, and continues to be a victim of these guardianship abuses for his assistance).
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