Alzheimer's Disease Feed

L'Oreal Heiress, Liliane Bettencourt, Subject to Guardianship

The second richest woman in the world, Liliane Bettencourt, has been declared mentally unfit to manage her affairs by a Judge in France a few days ago.  The decision grants control of her financial affairs to her only child, daughter Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, and grandsons Jean-Victor and Nicolas.  Bettencourt-Meyers has been fighting for years to protect her 88-year old mother, who has been victim to financial exploitation to the tune of more than one billion dollars, according to an earlier lawsuit.  Liliane Bettencourt

Bettencourt suffers from “mixed dementia” and “moderately severe” Alzheimer’s disease, according to a medical report relied on by the Judge in making her decision.  Her mental decline sparked a family court fight.  It began three years ago when Bettencourt-Meyers started a lawsuit to protect her mother from photographer Francois-Marie Banier, who she claimed had charmed the elder Bettencourt out of assets worth almost one billion euros (about 1.4 billion dollars).  She also named Banier as sole heir in a new will and as beneficiary to vast life insurance policies.

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Forbes Video on Protecting Against Financial Exploitation

2011 marks the first year that baby boomers turn 65.  This means there will be a dramatic increase in the number of seniors in the years to come, making it extra important to raise awareness and help families protect against financial exploitation.  Forbes_home_logo

Andrew Mayoras recently discussed this topic, featuring some prevention tips on  Of course, discussions of a few celebrity cases are included, such as Wesley Snipes, Anna Nicole Smith, and Farrah Fawcett.

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Texas multimillionaire subject to massive guardian battles

Ugo di Portanova.  Quite a name . . . and quite a story.  The Houston Chronicle had an interesting feature today about this heir to a massive oil fortune.  Di Portanova has assets valued at more than $65 million (which he largely inherited).  So you'd assume he'd wield great power with all that money, right?  Sadly, it's just the opposite. Di Portanova

Di Portanova has been declared legally incapacitated (at least in part) continuously since 1967.  After a long fight, he won the right to manage $1,000 per month, marry who he wants, and make a will.  But he lost his quest to end the guardianship, so he has almost no say in management of his own money or other important decisions in his life.

Diagnosed with schizophrenia, di Portanova, now age 74, has lost more than the right to make most of his financial and other decisions.  He has also lost many millions of dollars to exorbitant legal fees, guardian and trustee salaries, court costs, and related expenses.  The Chronicle reviewed decades worth of court records and tabbed the total bill at more than $50 million. 

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Dementia claims baseball legend Sparky Anderson

Former baseball manager George "Sparky" Anderson, a Hall of Fame coach who led both the Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds to World Series titles, died on November 4, 2010 because of complications from dementia.  He was 76 years old.  Sparky was a truly-beloved sports figure who will be sorely missed, as described in this article from the Detroit Free Press. Sparky

His death comes during National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness month.  Dementia is most often caused by Alzheimer's disease and is a growing epidemic in our country.  In fact, every 70 seconds, someone else in America develops Alzheimer's disease.  It now affects over 5.3 million Americans.

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Federal guardianship abuse probe raises major concerns

CNN has an interesting article today about a soon-to-be-released federal study by the Government Accountability Office, raising some major red flags about the guardianship system:

Some court-appointed guardians for incapacitated seniors are not screened before they're Elderly woman
appointed, and many are not monitored by the courts after they've taken over the affairs of their charges, resulting in hundreds of allegations of abuse, a federal probe found.

An investigation by the Government Accountability Office found allegations of abuse by legal guardians in 45 states and the District of Columbia, according to an advance copy of the report obtained by CNN. The report is scheduled to be released Wednesday.
In 20 cases studied by the office in which criminal or civil penalties resulted, investigators found that guardians stole at least $5.4 million in assets from 158 victims, the report said. In some instances, these same guardians abused or physically neglected the people they were supposed to help and protect.

In six of the 20 cases examined, the courts failed to screen guardians before giving them control over the financial affairs and care of their wards, the federal agency found.

You can read the full article here.

The study will be used by the Senate Special Committee on Aging to help implement changes at a national level, so that state court systems can change the way they screen, train and oversee professional guardians and others in the adult guardianship system, such as judges and other legal personnel.

Presently, it is up to each state to monitor, certify and select guardians, with no federal oversight at all.  There have been widespread reports of abuse and exploitation for many years; it is refreshing to see the federal government acting to intercede.

It is important to note, however, that flaws in the system and unscrupulous public guardians who take advantage of our country's weakest citizens, while very troubling, do not mean that the entire guardianship system or all professional guardians are bad.  There is room for improvement, but guardians play a very important role helping those seniors when no one else can.  There are bad apples in any profession, but most guardians are undervalued for the service they provide.

That reality does not change the fact that, clearly, new systems are needed in most states, as this investigation demonstrates.  Hopefully changes are coming soon.

If you have a loved one involved in a troubling guardianship situation, and suspect that a guardian is not doing his or her job properly, consider speaking with an experienced guardianship attorney to see what options you have.

Posted by: Andrew W. Mayoras and Danielle B. Mayoras, co-authors of Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founders of The Center for Probate Litigation and The Center for Elder Law in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law. Andrew and Danielle are husband and wife attorneys, professional speakers and consultants across the country.  Follow us on Facebook and Google+.

Trial over L'Oreal heiress sparks French political scandal

It's been more than 18 months since the daughter of France's richest woman sued to protect her from a man described as a "dandy" who had received more than $1 billion (U.S. value) in gifts from the owner of cosmetic giant L'Oreal.  You can read The Probate Lawyer Blog's last article on the case here.Lillianebettencourt

The daughter of 87-year-old Liliane Bettencourt sued Francois-Marie Banier, a 63-year old (male) celebrity photographer who reportedly has befriended Johnny Depp, Salvador Dali and others.  Banier claims the lavish gifts of cash and art masterpieces were given to him by Bettencourt when she was mentally competent as a thank-you for his years of friendship and help as an advisor.

Bettencourt's daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, was permitted to sue Banier criminally last year.  This means that if she wins her lawsuit, Banier will not only have to return the money, but also face jail time.  The case was set for trial late last week.

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Brooke Astor's son gets 1 to 3 year jail sentence

Anthony Marshall and the attorney he conspired with, Francis Morrissey, each received jail sentences earlier this week for 1 to 3 years.  They had been convicted of looting Brooke Astor, Marshall's mother, out of $60 million by convincing her to change her will when she was mentally unable to comprehend it due to Alzheimer's disease, along with related crimes.  Astor_brooke130x171

Marshall's attorneys had pled for leniency, citing his advanced age, poor health and doctors' reports saying any jail time would equate to a death sentence for him.  The Probate Lawyer Blog covered the defense lawyer's efforts in this recent article.

The judge wouldn't hear of it.  He noted how sad it was that a life of extreme abundance led to such sadness, particularly when Marshall's own son took the stand and "tried very, very hard to destroy" Marshall.

The judge did consider that Mrs. Astor loved her son, the judge felt, along with other mitigating factors, so he did not impose the 4 1/2 years that the prosecutors requested.  In fact, the judge said he actually preferred a different sentence.  He wished he could cause Marshall's many millions to be donated to charity and leave Marshall in the hands of his wife (for whom he committed the crimes, the judge said) to care for him -- without his money.

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