This was a recent case that I handled. An allegation arose that an elderly woman was being taken advantage of financially. In an effort to protect the woman’s finances her daughter was appointed her guardian. After reviewing the initial guardianship case it was clear to me that there was a rush to protect the elderly woman but that the solution was worse than the initial problem.
Many of the procedures and protocols that should have been followed were not adhered to or were overlooked. As a result, the daughter was appointed guardian of her mother and her mother’s estate. While this seems like a natural result it was instead a complete disaster. Within several months the daughter has depleted nearly $150,000 of her mother’s life savings that were supposed to be used to provide care for the aging woman.
A friend of the woman was the one who directed our attention to the fraud being committed by the daughter. We did our initial investigation of the allegations against the daughter and it was clear she was abusing her role as the guardian. Because of this we filed to remove the daughter as guardian with something called an Ex Parte Removal of Guardian.
Ex parte, means without the other side being present. The ex parte removal of a guardian is a draconian provision in the Texas Estate Code that is rarely used. Essentially, I requested an emergency hearing because the elderly woman, an incapacitated person, and her estate was at substantial risk of imminent harm. We presented evidence to show that the guardian had gone rogue and her removal as guardian was necessary in order to protect the elderly woman and salvage what was left of her estate. Had we failed to act immediately and with every tool provided by the Estates Code, the daughter would have spent everything and left her mother penniless and homeless.
What was so unique about this case is that the daughter was a appointed by the Court. As such, she was required to pass a criminal background check, an investigation by the guardianship coordinator, an investigation by the attorney ad litem who represented the elderly woman, and her own attorney should have verified to see if she was qualified to act. A potential guardian has to pass this screening to ensure that they will act properly to take care of the ward.
The fact that this daughter was ever appointed in the first place was a huge oversight on everyone involved in the initial guardianship proceedings. Luckily, we were quick enough to intervene and get to a resolution that was in the elderly woman’s best interest.
We recommend that you consult an experienced guardianship attorney when confronted with a guardianship dispute. At Romano & Sumner, we have a great deal of experience with the guardianship process. If you have any questions, or would like to make an appointment to talk with us, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.
Romano & Sumner, PLLC