Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hollywood Guardianship Proceedings

Amanda Bynes

Guardianships and conservatorships are proceedings that provide for the care of minors or disabled adults who are unable to make responsible decisions concerning their own person or assets.  The purpose of these proceedings is to protect and care for someone in need of assistance, but arguably amounts to taking away some of that individual’s civil rights. 

While every state code includes specific provisions governing guardianship proceedings, in California, the state’s mental health laws allow for any individuals who are a danger to themselves or others to be detained for up to 72 hours for observation and treatment.  The statute provides for additional involuntary confinement thereafter.  If a judge finds that the individual is gravely disabled as a result of a mental disorder, then a conservator may be appointed, and the judge may specify the conservator’s specific powers. 

Guardianships and conservatorships are becoming increasingly used in California by the parents of troubled Hollywood celebrities and former child stars, such as Britney Spears in 2008, and Amanda Bynes in both 2013 and 2014.  Amanda’s case is a perfect illustration as to why the decision to initiate guardianship proceedings is especially delicate.  When Amanda was under the conservatorship of her parents, she went through a series of troubling events, including an arrest for marijuana.  Per the California statute, she was put under psychiatric hold and her mother was appointed to control her finances.  Amanda was arrested again, and after she was released from the psychiatric hold, Amanda roamed the streets of Hollywood.  The next scheduled hearing in Amanda’s conservatorship proceedings is set to take place in February.

See John T. Brooks and Jena L. Levin, Trending Now: Hollywood Guardianship and Conservatorship Proceedings, Wealth Management, Jan. 21, 2015.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

January 21, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Lawyer Sentenced For Stealing From Veteran's Estate

Gavel 4

Today an attorney was sentenced to sixteen months in prison for siphoning $262,000 from the estate of a disabled Army veteran. 

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Timothy McCormick sentenced Kevin Purcell, 62, after hearing how the attorney stole the money from the estate of John Kane, who suffered from schizophrenia.  “There is a special place in hell waiting for attorneys who steal from the defenseless,” said an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor. 

Purcell served as a guardian for Kane since 1993 and administrator of his estate after he died in 2012.  Last month, he pleaded guilty to aggravated theft and agreed to never practice law again.  He also was ordered to pay restitution to Kane’s estate. 

See John Caniglia, Lawyer Gets 16 Months in Prison for Fleecing the Estate of a Disabled Army Vet, Cleveland.com, Jan. 6, 2015. 

January 6, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Malpractice, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 2, 2015

95-Year-Old Newlywed Man Passes Away

Edith and eddie

I have previously discussed the contentious marriage occurring between 96-year-old Edith Hill and 95-year-old Eddie Harrison earlier this year.

Unfortunately, Harrison passed away just weeks after family members took Hill away to Florida.  Hill’s time in Florida was supposed to be a two week vacation, however, when Hill did not return home as planned, Harrison began to realize she was not coming back.  He became heartbroken and checked himself into a hospital after falling ill with the influenza.  Harrison died shortly thereafter.  Rebecca Wright, who was caring for the couple in their Virginia home, said, “He lived for her, and she lived for him.  It’s the love story of the century.” 

See Brett Zongker, Newlywed Man, 95, Dies After Wife Taken Away, Yahoo, Dec. 31, 2014.

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.  

January 2, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Guardianship Bill to be Introduced in Ohio

Gavel2As I have previously discussed, the legal action against a court-appointed guardian in Ohio over alleged theft has many calling for the state to make significant changes to its guardianship system. A bill that was introduced in the state legislature at the end of 2014 failed that would have created stricter guidelines for court-appointed guardians and stronger protections for wards. The bill is expected to be edited and reintroduced in the coming session by one of the original co-authors, State Rep. Dorothy Pelanda.

See, Guardianship Bill Needed, The Columbus Dispatch, Jan. 1, 2015.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

January 2, 2015 in Guardianship, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Step-Family Finance Planning


According to the Pew Research Center, four in ten American adults have at least one step-relative in their family.  While many step-families operate harmoniously, adults often “feel a stronger sense of obligation to their biological family members than they do to their step-kin.”  Because of this, blended family finances can get messy. 

Couples planning to blend families need to make financial arrangements that respect previous relationships with ex-spouses.  Issues range from childcare and eldercare to complex matters involving businesses, investment assets and real estate.  Below is a list of issues and solutions potential partners should consider:

  • Credit Reports and Credit Scores.  Extensive loans or bad credit for one or both partners can endanger future purchasing plans for auto, home or tuition. 
  • Assets and Liabilities.  Potential partners should k now each other’s financial assets and liabilities and any issues connected with them. 
  • Legal Issues.  Full disclosure is essential for matters such as divorce, child custody, foreclosure, bankruptcy, or other civil or criminal legal proceedings.
  • Business and Estate Issues.  If partners have significant estate or business assets assigned to children, former spouses or family members, those commitments need to be factored into the finances of the planned marriage or partnership. 

See Jason Alderman, Yours, Mine and Ours: Planning Step-Family Finances, Pleasanton Weekly, Dec. 29, 2014.

December 30, 2014 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Non-Probate Assets, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Ohio Guardian Accused of Theft

TheftA court-appointed guardian and Columbus, Ohio lawyer, Paul S. Kormanik, is accused of theft. Families of individuals that Kormanik was appointed guardian for claim that he stole $41,000. Kormanik was appointed as a guardian for almost 400 individuals and was indicted for the alleged theft in October. The daughter of one of Kormanik's wards claims that many items, including a couch and a rocking chair, were removed from her father's home at Kormanik's directions and with the intention to auction them off.

See Lucas Sullivan & Josh Jarman, Wards of Indicted Guardian Are Missing Items, Relatives Say, The Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 28, 2014.

December 29, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Creating a Collaborative Network When Planning for a Special Needs Child

Family3Planning for the care of a child with special needs after the current caregiver dies or is unable to continue care creates unique guardianship considerations. In addition to carefully selecting a guardian that has the needed experience, emotional strength, and financial savvy to care for the child, reaching out to a network of individuals who can provide support for the primary guardian can add additional support and protection for the child. It can be difficult to find all the desired characteristics for a well-rounded guardian in one person, and creating an informal collaborative network of support as part of estate planning can ensure the child's care is fully planned for.

See Ryan Barry, Talking to Relatives About Guardianship of a Child With Special Needs, JD Supra, Dec. 15, 2014.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

December 17, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Combating Elder Abuse

Elderly financial abuse

Elder abuse is not a commonly talked about topic, but is serious and demands attention. 

Resources such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney and guardians can be a helpful resource for individuals who have loved ones living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.  However, these resources can also be used to hurt, abuse or neglect the very person they are intended to protect.  Fortunately, most states have laws and regulations that are designed for the protection of elderly or disabled adults.

North Carolina, for example, has established the Protection of the Abused, Neglected or Exploited Disabled Adult Act.  This act is designed to protect disabled adults.  Anyone who knows or has a reason to believe a disabled adult is being abused, neglected or exploited has a duty to report the information to the Department of Social of Services director.  Once the DSS director receives a report of possible abuse, the director performs an evaluation of the situation to determine if protective services are needed. 

Anyone involved in the abuse of an elderly or disabled person could face severe consequences.  In many states, such conduct results in that person facing felony charges.  The amount of money or property in the action typically determines the level or seriousness of the crime.  Moreover, any persons or workers in a facility who are responsible for providing care for a disabled or elderly person could be criminally charged or sued in civil court for certain actions of abuse or neglect.    

See Bellonora McCallum, Legal Corner: Protecting the Elderly From Abuse, Exploitation, Your Daily Journal, Dec. 12, 2014.

December 14, 2014 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 17, 2014

International Estate Planning


While estate planning is crucial for almost everyone, if you have international ties, you have even more reasons to take the time to carefully plan your estate.  Whether you are part of an international family, married to a non-citizen, or you live abroad, here are four reasons to look into international estate planning:

  1. Decrease your tax burden. Non-citizens of the United States must follow different estate tax and gift tax laws.  If you own property abroad, you could end up getting taxed twice, in two different countries.  These are just a few rules that illustrate why you should seek guidance on your international estate plan.
  2. Prevent confusion and delay. If you fail to plan your estate, the red tape could delay your loved ones in getting the support they need.  Worst case, it could prevent your loved ones from getting what you wished.
  3. Shield wealth and property. When you forego planning your estate, it is left in the hands of the government.  If you have international property, the future of your assets depends heavily on where they are located, and estate law can vary from country to country.
  4. Protect children. If you want your children to have a guardian who lives abroad, it is essential you plan your estate so your guardianship wishes are clear.  International families should appoint both a temporary and permanent guardian.

See Janet Brewer, Four Great Reasons For International Estate Planning, JD Supra, Nov. 17, 2014. 

November 17, 2014 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Gift Tax, Guardianship, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Exploitation by Court-Appointed Conservator Fuels Reform Discussion

Gavel2The exploitation of 96-year-old veteran Louis Russo by his court-appointed conservator has supporters and advocates calling for reform of how Connecticut probate courts appoint conservators. Russo was appointed a conservator that he did not know because he did not have any family that could care for him. The conservator put Russo in a nursing home instead of a veterans home, which incurred additional cost, spent his life savings and Social Security, and rented out Russo’s home without permission. Russo now has a new conservator that is working to get Russo back in his home. Advocates are calling for reform to the court-appointed conservator system, including monitoring systems, training for conservators, and requirements such as social work experience

See Rob Ryser, WWII Veteran’s Plight Brings Call for Probate Court Reform, Connecticut Post, Oct. 25, 2014.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

November 5, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)