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 website:
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.