I just watched the movie, I Care A Lot. It’s about a woman who becomes guardian, appointed by a court, to oversee seniors’ care who aren’t able to care for themselves anymore. Yet, she is very malicious and corrupt, and she preys on these vulnerable people along with others who comply with her scheme for a payoff, such as a doctor and a nursing home administrator.
The story takes far-fetched lengths for entertainment value, including a Russian mob and bizarre happenings, but the main point is, unfortunately, a real one.
In Florida, if a resident is showing signs of an inability to care for him or herself, and no relatives appear to be available to assist them, the state can assign a guardian through one of the contracted agencies that provide this service. These agencies have attorneys in place to attain court ordered authorization to sell off the belongings, and place the person in a facility. And pay themselves of course. All against the will of the compromised person.
I assume most states have similar practices in place. In the movie the agency/guardians schemed to keep much of the value of the assets for themselves and pay off those in cahoots, as well as charging a high fee for the service.
We have experienced scary situations with our clients in the past, where an agency was sent in to assess and determine if a client of ours was deemed competent to continue living alone. In one case, the doctor reported a woman to our state authorities, I will call her Tess, because she got lost on her way to her doctor’s appointment. Tess was suddenly on a swift process to have a guardian appointed, moved into a nursing home, and her home and valuables, investment accounts and annuities, all turned over to this agency to be used for her care.
I was contacted by someone from such an agency regarding Tess, and you can imagine how alarmed I was. Tess had all her documentation in place. She had a trust, power of attorney, and all possible plans in place to assure her desires would be followed. It ended up being our job, along with her attorney, to unravel the mess it had become. It took about 3 or 4 months to prove to a judge she already had all in place for her care and to place her desired trustee in charge of everything, (which ended up being me temporarily).
We realized she wasn’t able to remain living on her own. We were able to move her to a top, elegant facility, sell her home and deposit all the proceeds into her trust. She kept her cats, her valuables, everything she wanted. Neither her attorney nor I charged her a penny. It cost her $5,000 in court costs in the end, because of the agency contracted by the state, and it cost all of us working for her benefit lots of sleepless nights.
This is just one example of many. The moral of the story is please, please, have all your documents in place to make sure you’re not taken advantage of or end up with a situation you did not wish for.