The victims of this process are often isolated, without significant family. When there are heirs, the heirs are often pitted against each other and mercilessly exploited for the personal gain of the lawyers/conservators.
According to her daughter-in-law, Lee Peters had been an exceptional woman. Stunningly beautiful, she had made her career in costuming for TV and film. Following her husband’s death, she had raised her four children, eventually re-marrying a man eighteen years her junior.
In the mid 1990’s Lee began to exhibit signs of dementia and started to lose her sight. Her marriage fell apart and her husband left her. Her son Casey took over a care-giving role, taking Lee to medical and other appointments. He moved back into the family home in order to better care for his mother. The two other sons (the sole daughter had died some years prior) began to attempt to manipulate Lee to revoke her will and sign other legal documents in order to ensure their financial future.
They set up a Trust, naming as Trustee the wife of Stephen Peters and an unrelated attorney, Nora Hamill, who was a close associate and advisor of son, Michael Patrick Peters. Hamill had previously been suspended from the Illinois Bar for misconduct. Marilyn Peters, Casey’s wife, unequivocally states that these parties began to loot the Trust. Lee’s house had accumulated in value, and was worth in the neighborhood of $900,000. In an attempt to seize possession of the house, Michael Patrick moved his mother to a board and care.
When this proved unsatisfactory, Lee moved back home and was immediately threatened with eviction by her own offspring. Nora Hamill withheld Lee’s social security check. “They were trying to starve her out,” reflects Marilyn Peters.
In an effort to protect Lee from further threats of eviction, Casey Peters applied in Los Angeles Superior Court to be conservator of her person only. He would thus have no access to Lee’s money, but would be able to impact such matters as where Lee would live. Lee had repeatedly stated she wished to remain in her own home, and Casey and Marilyn were, at that point, caring for her in her own residence. In this manner, Casey believed he would be able to protect his mother from threats of eviction and unwarranted moves.
A reasonable gesture, this turned out to intensify the problems, as the State’s guardianship machine geared up to make mince meat out of the elderly, blind and incapacitated woman.