Pinellas County Internal Auditor Robert W. Melton lectured at
Eckerd College in St. Petersburg on: "Dirty Tricks of Guardianships –
The Need for Change."
Here are just 10 of the "dirty tricks," as outlined by Pinellas County
Internal Auditor Robert W. Melton taken from Justice for FL Senior's
1) Guardian creation of a trust: Remove all oversight by the court as a
provision of the trust agreement; guardian becomes trustee; provide that
the trustee can do whatever they want at their sole discretion.
2) Sell real estate at lowball price: Use "lowball" valuations as a
benchmark; don't list property with Realtors; sell to a land trust,
where nobody knows the beneficiary; watch property resold a few months
later for a huge increase.
3) Maximize your (or your crony's) profit from investments: Hire money
manager for "financial expertise" and let the manager select an
investment broker; invest in volatile stocks and trade frequently to
generate commissions; if you run up a large gain, don't selectively
liquidate over time to pay the taxes but hold a "fire sale" to raise
funds all in one day.
4) Undervalue beginning inventory: Have a used-furniture "friend" value
a house full of antiques for $3,000; "forget" to put some of the more
expensive items on the inventory; "forget" to include a $40,000
certificate of deposit.
5) Pay yourself first: Make payment of guardian and attorney fees the
highest priority; disregard mortgage payments and let ward's home go
into foreclosure; squirrel away money in the attorney's escrow account
for possible future expenses.
6) Maintain guardianship at all costs: Keep family members uninformed;
if family members try to become guardian, accuse them of stealing; use
the ward's assets for legal fights to retain guardianship.
7) Improper financial reporting: Bury asset-management and brokerage
fees as aggregate capital losses "due to market fluctuations"; don't
classify disbursements separately; file incomplete or incorrect
safe-deposit box inventories.
8) Forced incompetency: Visit assisted-living facilities and establish
employee contacts; obtain voluntary limited financial guardianship; if
there is money in the estate, do paperwork to force an evaluation of
competency; get control over everything and the ward loses all rights.
9) Pay your attorney well: Let attorney bill full rate to shop for a
computer and set it up for the ward; let attorneys bill their full rate,
even if work is done by a paralegal or assistant.
10) Forget to file federal tax returns: Ensure there is a refund; wait
till the ward dies; get check without oversight.
Guardianship abuse and conservatorship
abuse IS elder abuse!
(c) 2006 NASGA