Eight Years Under Guardianship & Four Years In Lockdown
She Died Alone And No One Told Us
Help Us Get Justice for Lillie
Aunt Lillie achieved the American Dream and it was stolen from her.
From a small town in North Carolina, Lillie earned a doctorate and became Supervisor of Instruction for the public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland. She worked hard and invested well, building a home in Florida to "age-in-place" with her (late) husband.
Now, her life has been tragically taken because of greed and a broken guardianship system. Lillie's sister (my mother) and fifty nieces and nephews were blocked from even speaking with her for over four years after she was abducted by an improperly appointed guardian and a court-appointed attorney. With Lillie locked away and silenced, her over $4 million estate (and sizeable monthly pension) became a "cash cow" for attorneys and the estranged granddaughter whom no one else in the family knows. She may not even be a blood relative.
On December 31, 2020, Lillie died at the age of 92 and no one told us. Days before, Lillie's 85-year-old sister, and only living sibling, had been asking to speak with her and was ignored. She emailed the attorneys and called the facility multiple times but was not put through because she did not have the "passcode." She had a feeling something was wrong and desperately wanted to hear her sister's voice. They were the last of eight siblings.
Two weeks earlier, on December 16th, the granddaughter filed a Caveat with the court obviously anticipating Lillie's death. We only found out that Lillie had died by chance. What happened? Did they over-medicate her to close out the case before the end of the year? Did she get COVID-19 at the facility where she was being held? If they knew she was dying, why didn't they at least let her sister speak with her then? The granddaughter's attorneys finally informed the sister after she had filed yet another motion for telephonic visitation. If we had not forced their hand, would they have ever told us Lillie had died?
We can't even take time to grieve because we must act immediately before they seal everything and further hide their actions. This is why we've launched this initiative and need your help RIGHT NOW. This Civil Rights Fund will help us challenge them and elevate this issue. They thrive on secrecy. We must shine a very bright light on these crimes.
As horrific as this sounds, similar situations are occurring to unsuspecting victims every day. You or your loved one could be next.
How did this happen? In 2012, at 83 years old, Lillie was living independently enjoying her retirement in Palm Coast, Florida--cooking, shopping and driving her little sports Mercedes. Little did she know that her life would begin to end after a visit from a family friend.
The case started with fraud. This friend filed for guardianship stating he was Lillie's "nephew" and did not name her sister or anyone else in the family as next of kin. He then joined forces with Lillie's estranged granddaughter who had just filed for bankruptcy. She retained "The Firm"-- a large law firm in Orlando that knew how to manipulate guardianship laws.
Even after a judge said there was no need for guardianship, The Firm launched a multi-year campaign to strip Lillie of her rights so the granddaughter could control the Trust and the attorneys could benefit from the estate--all under the guise of "protecting" Lillie. In essence, they targeted a senior to steal her money. The granddaughter had already put her name on Lillie's Trust accounts without her knowledge. When Lillie found out about the granddaughter's actions, she took her out of the Will and Trust. This was before any incapacity ruling. That 2012 Trust is said to not have been funded. Yet, Lillie did not have access to her own accounts because the granddaughter had taken the Trust assets "hostage."
The granddaughter kept claiming Lillie was "paranoid" even though she had testified in court that she didn't really know her grandmother. Nevertheless, as a result of an extremely flawed incapacity evaluation, Lillie was placed under guardianship. The Orange County Court removed the granddaughter as Successor Trustee and named Lillie's sister Limited Guardian and Trustee per Lillie's direct request in court. Although not ideal, Lillie could still live a somewhat normal life surrounded by family.
The exploitation escalated when the case moved to Flagler County. The Flagler County Judge disregarded the Orange County rulings. Within months, The Firm was able to get three court agents appointed (all paid from Lillie's assets) and the sister suspended without a hearing or due process. Their actions were coordinated. Even Lillie's own court-appointed attorney was acting against her and pushing to strip away more rights. Lillie did not stand a chance.
On August 30, 2016, Lillie left home with her niece to go to the doctor. When the doctor's receptionist called the niece into another room to fill out papers, the Emergency Temporary Guardian and Attorney ad Litem abducted Lillie against her will. There was no notice, danger, emergency or justification. They ignored an Injunction Motion that was already on the Judge's desk, as well as two police reports stating Lillie was safe in her home. Lillie still retained the right to choose with whom to socialize and had previously made it clear she wanted to be with her sister and niece. Her stated wishes were to remain in her home. That did not matter.
The court agents refused to disclose Lillie's location even to the sister's attorney. The nieces tried to file a missing person claim but the Deputy Sheriff said she was not "missing" since the guardian knew where she was. They called multiple Florida agencies and were assured that Lillie was "fine." Three weeks later, she was put under Plenary Guardianship, removing the rest of her rights in a closed hearing. Even though Lillie had a history of testifying in Orange County, the Attorney ad Litem waived Lillie's appearance at her own incapacity hearing, and the sister and nieces were blocked from testifying. Lillie's niece had been her family companion and caregiver for five years--sharing meals, cooking, going to movies, celebrating holidays. Yet, the Flagler County Judge did not think her testimony would be relevant.
After "taking possession of the body" (i.e. abducting and isolating Lillie), The Firm and court agents could say or do anything. They got Lillie's estate plan voided and reverted it back to benefiting the granddaughter (and thus themselves). They also crafted a new narrative--that the family was "agitating" Lillie. With Lillie silenced and under their control, they then took away the "interested party" status of the sister and niece so they could not see certain legal filings and blocked everyone from any contact with Lillie. They made countless moves in secret--all allowed by the equity court.
After two years of Lillie being hidden, the family found her through private investigators. She was in a locked down facility an hour away from her home (which was sold without her knowledge). Around the same time, the court-appointed guardian, who had been under investigation by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, suddenly resigned. The family thought they had caught a break and the nightmare was coming to an end.
In November 2018, Lillie’s sister and niece flew to Florida from New York to try and see Lillie before The Firm knew they had located her. The reunion was so joyous that the staff at the location took video. On camera, Lillie stated, among other things, that she certainly wanted to see her sister, nieces and nephews, and simply thought no one wanted to visit her.
That was the last time we saw Lillie. Although details of the visit and existence of the video were filed with the Flagler County Court, nothing changed. The Firm was apparently telling officials that Lillie “must have been coached” for the video even though her family had not seen her for two years and her statements were consistent with her wishes before her abduction.
Behind closed doors and without anyone else in the family being notified, the Flagler County Court named the estranged granddaughter Guardian and Trustee even though the Orange County Court had removed her as Trustee AND Lillie had testified that the granddaughter was victimizing her. It made no sense but there was no chance to object.
These actions are an extreme abuse of power which violated Lillie's civil rights. They reveal a terribly unjust guardianship system. Isolation facilitates undue influence and exploitation. It is also inhumane and can lead to cognitive decline and death.
Guardianship laws are being weaponized by predatory guardians and attorneys to steal from seniors and the disabled, causing irreparable damage to the victim and family. Even if it starts with individual bad actors (e.g. the family friend and the granddaughter), the lawyers take over and escalate the exploitation in their pursuit of the assets. Many of the acts are done under "color of law" and are actually illegal. However, there is no court oversight and government officials turn a blind eye. It's time to put an end to this institutionalized oppression.
JUSTICE FOR LILLIE: CIVIL RIGHTS FUND
Lillie's life matters. We are raising a Civil Rights Fund to seek justice for her and elevate this issue. We will use the money to do three things:
- Hire an attorney to seek retribution for Lillie's exploitation and file a civil rights suit. We've had discussions with an attorney who already knows the case. We have mapped out a strategy and want to engage him right away.
- Draft and advocate for the LSW Civil Rights Act which will focus on preventing the isolation of seniors and the disabled under guardianship.
- Educate the public about involuntary guardianships and preventative measures.
This form of human and estate trafficking disproportionately affects women and is rising in communities of color. COVID-19 is making it easier to isolate and exploit victims. We must change the laws to reduce the power of guardians and legal predators, as well as ensure that anyone committing these heinous acts will be prosecuted. Since Lillie's guardianship case is considered one of the most egregious in the country, a win for Lillie would be a win for many families across the U.S. sparking national dialogue. January was National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Help us raise funds and awareness of this new form of trafficking.
Due to COVID-19, millions of people around the world now have felt the pain of isolation of a senior and perhaps losing a loved one without getting a chance to say goodbye. How would you feel if your mother/sister/aunt/grandmother was kidnapped and forced into isolation away from you with no ability to even speak with her FOR FOUR YEARS? Then, she dies alone and you don't even know it AND the people committing these sadistic acts are actually agents of the court who feel entitled to steal without recourse. If you are Black or Brown, there is an additional layer of arrogance in stealing your money... like you shouldn't have it anyway.
THIS is what we're fighting against--the entitlement and cruelty of unchecked power to isolate and exploit seniors in secrecy and under the guise of "protecting" them.
This has been traumatizing and exhausting for our family over the past eight years. We have had discussions with officials at various levels of state and federal government to no avail. They either don't have the ability to act under current law or there is no political will to reign in predatory guardians and attorneys. Similar to the efforts around police reform, we must overhaul this system and get rid of the offenders. No one should go through what we have experienced.
Any amount of donation is appreciated. We are seeking to raise the first $50,000 as soon as possible. Time is of the essence given filing deadlines and the need to stop them from hiding their actions. Please help us seek justice for Lillie and then transform the law so this does not happen to you or your loved ones.
For more videos of Lillie go to: http://elderdignity.org/in-lillies-voice/