A few months ago, had someone asked me what I'd have considered to be the worst event in a person's life, I'd have said, without hesitation, the loss of a loved one. I have since reconsidered. Learning too late (shortly after my 90-year-old mother's death) that my parents were the victims of elder exploitation beats that six ways from Sunday. The pain of living through the wreckage this perpetrator has left in his wake is sometimes all but unbearable.
A few weeks after my mother died, I contacted the county probate office and found out that a new will had come out of nowhere, a will which benefited the perpetrator, actually giving him carte blanche to do anything he chose with any of my parents' property, real or personal. I also learned that this individual had gotten himself appointed my mother's medical surrogate -- the person who makes medical decisions in the event of another's incapacity. And make those decisions he did. Less than two weeks after those two documents were executed, my mother was in a coma. Four days later, this man ordered the termination of my mother's life support.
After my mother's death, it came to light that this man had gotten his name added to one of my mother's checking accounts.
I also learned, after my mother's passing, that several months ago, this man waltzed into the nursing home where my dad resides, handed my dad a boiler-plate Power of Attorney -- you know, the sort anyone can print off the internet -- and walked out with my dad's signature. My father has Alzheimer's. He's had it for a while. Much as I adore the man and it pains me to say it, much as I still think of him as my hero, my father is not competent to sign anything.
Florida law is crystal clear on the matter: a Durable Power of Attorney can survive incompetence, but absolutely, unequivocally, cannot be created by an incompetent person. That's the law. Only 'the law' won't help me. They refuse to investigate. In a state with such an enormous elderly population, this sort of exploitation is just all-too-common for them. I cannot tell you how many times since my mother's death I have heard the words, "It's unfortunate, Ma'am, but I hear about this kind of thing all the time." And then nothing. And that's exactly what the perpetrator was banking on.
Armed with the bogus Power of Attorney and the new will, this man boldly bragged to my brother and me, separately, privately so as not to be overheard, that he was putting the now-vacant house on the market and had every intention of putting the proceeds of the sale into the checking account which, now that our mother is dead, is in his name only. And with a smile which would freeze even Satan's blood, said, "And there's nothing you can do to stop me. I have more money than you, and I can keep you tied up in court for years."
The law won't help, so I've decided to avail myself of the one medium I have left to me: film. In conjunction with a Sarasota-based production company, my partner and I are making a documentary about the issue. Our hope is that Last Will and Embezzlement will shine a light on this global problem, help those who have potentially-vulnerable adults in their lives to be on the look-out for signs of victimization, and maybe even make some waves in the communities where the rights of these citizens are not being looked after and protected by the public servants and law enforcement officials who are charged with that responsibility.
Copyright by Pamela S. K. Glasner © 2011, All Rights Reserved