Hynes, Esq. on the cover of The New York Law Journal
I want to share with you a recent article from the
front page of the New York Law Journal in which I was interviewed. The article was about a very interesting guardianship case
in Nassau County in which I represented a neighbor who was appointed the guardian of a gentleman suffering from profound dementia
over the objections of his family, Nassau County Adult Protective Services, the court–appointed Evaluator and the court-appointed
temporary guardian. Objections to the neighbor’s appointment as guardian focused on the fact that the neighbor transferred
funds from accounts co-owned by the gentleman and herself, that she was not initially receptive to obtaining full time care
for the gentleman, and that the neighbor was the sole beneficiary of the gentlemen’s most current Will. But the gentleman
was adamant that the neighbor handle his affairs, and was clear about his desire in spite of his severe condition.
Although the circumstances appeared
suspect at first glance, the judge decided that he was compelled in this instance to grant the gentleman’s wishes and
appoint my client, the neighbor, as his guardian. We had successfully demonstrated that, over the past several years, the
gentleman and his neighbor had developed a loving and trusting relationship akin to that of a father and daughter, and that
the gentleman’s reliance upon his neighbor and his trust in her was a rational choice. Although the neighbor recently
transferred the gentleman’s funds to herself, she did so only after being advised by counsel and in order to obtain
Medicaid benefits, and she ultimately returned the funds to the guardianship proceeding. The judge also found, among other
facts favorable to my client, that the neighbor’s ability to act in the gentleman’s best interest was not sufficiently
hindered by the fact that the neighbor would eventually inherit what remained of his estate at the time of his death.
It is important to note that a power of attorney was executed by the gentleman a few years ago in which
my client was named his agent. The entire proceeding could have been avoided, and significant costs could have been averted,
if the power of attorney had not been lost, or if his attorney produced a copy, which he was ethically required to retain.
It is important that we stress to the community the importance of executing a power of attorney, and to properly do so under
the supervision of an attorney, particularly in light of the newly sanctioned forms that are far more complex than previous
forms. It is equally important that we stress that originals or copies be retained by all interested parties, and secured
in places where the forms can be easily obtained in a time of crisis.