We all heard about them – unscrupulous lawyers who steal money from the estates of people, robbing the person's heirs of not just money, but a sense of security in the world. I was very disheartened when I read this particular story, https://www.estateofdenial.com/2009/02/03/michigan-lawyer-plunders-disabled-veterans-estate/.
It seems that the deceased person was particularly vulnerable as he was mentally challenged. An attorney who had to be the decedent’s legal guardian for over 25 years stole $900,000 from his estate after his death. How can this happen? I suspect because relatives of the mentally challenged person were all too happy to let someone they thought was trustworthy worry about taking care of their not-so-easy to take care of relative. Lessons learned –
Always investigate people you are willing to place into a position of trust –
Before this attorney stole $900,000 in 2009, ten years earlier, he had been reprimanded by the Michigan State Bar. If you look this guy up today on Avvo.com, there is a red triangle and “Extreme Caution – This lawyer has been disciplined by a state licensing authority.” However, he is now holding himself out as a mediator. That’s scary.
A simple search of the internet will get you some very interesting information.
Make semi-yearly checks into the care and financial management of your loved ones. Ask for an accounting of monies spent. If the lawyer refuses, ask the Court to order them to make regular accountings of money.
Every attorney is required to keep information about his/her client confidential, but a good attorney will get permission from your loved one to give you at least some information. The mere fact that you ask for information may give them pause when they are tempted to help themselves.
If all else fails, report the attorney to the state bar and let the bar investigate what is going on for you. This, most definitely, will give them pause – if not chest pains!