Any Charges Reported on this blog are Merely Accusations and the Defendants are Presumed Innocent Unless and Until Proven Guilty, through the courts.

November 15, 2012

Old, Infirm and at the Center of a Legal Struggle

November 13, 2012

TWO years ago when Arthur Cropsey’s wife died, it became clear to his family that Mr. Cropsey, now 91, could no longer live on his own in his California home. So his sister, Anna Mae Franklin, 83, of Colonie, N.Y., and her daughter, Linda Lyons, 61, flew out to get Mr. Cropsey and bring him back to New York State.
Looking After a Loved One's Affairs
Soon after came two frightening realizations, Ms. Franklin said. First, Mr. Cropsey was in much worse shape than she had imagined. He suffered from severe memory loss and mood swings. During much of the day he was disoriented and at night he would pace from room to room in her small trailer home.
Second, Ms. Franklin thought that Ms. Lyons, with the help of her boyfriend, David Watson, 43, a lawyer, had gained control of a good portion of Mr. Cropsey’s money, which totalled more than $2 million in cash and investments. It looked to Ms. Franklin as if the couple were spending Mr. Cropsey’s money on themselves.
She and her daughter fought bitterly and ended up in court, each side accusing the other of mishandling Mr. Cropsey’s affairs. Eventually the judge ruled against the daughter and her boyfriend.
“The court notes that the actions by Linda Lyons and David Watson are inappropriate, and demonstrate a distinct intent to take advantage of Mr. Cropsey,” Acting Justice Kimberly A. O’Connor wrote for the state Supreme Court, adding that the pair had treated his money as their own and “spent it in excessive ways that were often for their benefit.”
Sadly, such family conflicts commonly arise from caring for the elderly and often end up in court. In this case, the daughter still disputes the court’s ruling and much of her mother’s version of events. Mr. Watson declined to comment, and the couple’s lawyer did not respond to messages seeking comment.
In general, financial manipulation is one of the fastest-growing areas of elder abuse, said Bob Blancato, national coordinator of the Elder Justice Coalition. It includes things like telephone investment swindles and caregivers, including family members, stealing money from vulnerable seniors.
The annual loss by elder financial abuse victims is close to $3 billion, according to a 2010 survey by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, a 12 percent increase from 2008. Thirty-four percent of that abuse is attributed to family, friends, neighbors and paid caregivers, according to the survey.
Those numbers don’t begin to reflect the actual incidence of abuse, said Sandra Timmermann, executive director of the institute. For every case that is reported, an estimated four or five are not, she said.
In Mr. Cropsey’s case, the court, having found him mentally incapacitated, decided to appoint an independent trustee as guardian of his finances, while keeping Ms. Franklin in charge of his care. Ms. Lyons and Mr. Watson returned close to $42,000 of Mr. Cropsey’s money, the ruling noted. He moved into an assisted-living facility.
As a story of family disunity amid the challenges of elder care, the case offers little uplift. The judge’s ruling, issued in October 2011, found that Mr. Watson had Mr. Cropsey sign documents to give Ms. Lyons power of attorney; Ms. Franklin previously had that power. And Mr. Watson had Mr. Cropsey sign a will leaving his entire estate to Ms. Lyons, according to the ruling. Mr. Cropsey did not have a will at the time, so under New York State law much of his estate would have gone to Ms. Franklin.
Justice O’Connor referred to that action as “egregious” given that Mr. Cropsey’s mental capacity was questionable and, referring to Mr. Watson, said that “the canons of ethics by which a lawyer must abide and conduct himself or herself require examination in this instance.”
Ms. Lyons declined to comment on Mr. Cropsey’s will, but did offer an account of her and Mr. Watson’s spending that differed from her mother’s.


 SOURCE:       The New York Times

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