NEW YORK (MainStreet) — In May 2008, Larry Mills filed in Texas to become legal guardian of his then 80-year-old mother, Willie Joe Mills, who’d had a stroke. But by July 2009, Judge William McCulloch in a Harris County probate court appointed a third-party guardian who was also an attorney.
“The guardian put Mama in memory care with dementia people, then he sold her house for $86,000, cashed out $1 million in CDs and put it all in a trust before she was declared incompetent,” said Sherry Johnson, who is one of three of Mills’s adult children. “She never had a trial or due process.”
The nightmare Willie Joe Mills and her heirs experienced is part of a growing trend. Some 37% of judges, court managers and clerks who responded to a Center for Elders and the Courts survey revealed that guardianship filings have increased over the last three years and 43% noted an increase in caseloads.
In most states, it is not uncommon for the elderly to lose their individual rights around residence, medical care, assets and property once they are placed under guardianship. The consequences can be detrimental for families -- financially and in terms of the older relative's health.
Willie Joe Mills’s trust was reportedly billed on a quarterly basis by the guardian to pay his monthly salary to manage the elderly woman's affairs, but Johnson claims her mother’s health began failing once she was placed under care at Silverado Senior Living in Kenwood, Texas.