Generous kin or addled aunt?
The situation: For more than 30 years, 84-year-old Genyte Dirse owned and operated a small beachside motel next door to the triplex apartments she owned in St. Pete Beach, Florida. Gedi, her great-nephew, had lived with her temporarily after coming to the U.S. 15 years earlier, at age 20, from their native Lithuania. In December 2017, Genyte sold one of the triplex buildings to Gedi for $50,000 — a fraction of its $250,000 market value. Real estate agent Diana Sames called foul. She said that Genyte's faculties were failing and that the great-nephew exploited his aunt during the sale.
The case: Sames petitioned a judge to put Genyte under the control of a guardian, testifying that Genyte was not thinking clearly. Gedi countered that the agent had showed little interest in his great-aunt until the property was transferred to his name. As for Genyte's capabilities, Gedi and tenants said she was doing just fine on her own and still managing to run the motel; Gedi was helping drive her to the grocery store, church and doctor appointments.
And the Verdict Is ...
On April 18, 2018, a Florida judge declared Genyte Dirse incapacitated and appointed a professional guardian, Traci Samuel, to oversee her everyday and financial affairs. Samuel, who manages multiple guardianships, moved Genyte from her motel into an assisted living facility and forbade Gedi and other family members and friends to see her. Samuel also sued him, using Genyte’s money, to void the sale of the property. Gedi has been billed about $75,000 in attorney fees, he says.
The lesson: “Almost all guardianships are avoidable with advance planning,” says Syracuse University law professor Nina A. Kohn, a guardianship expert. “If you execute powers of attorney for your health care and finances, even if you lose your ability to make decisions yourself, a court appointment will very rarely be necessary.” Adds Diana Noel, AARP senior legislative representative: “Most states continue to improve adult-guardianship laws to prevent abusive situations, and many seek to meet an individual’s needs with less restrictive alternatives, when appropriate, so the adult can retain authority to make decisions.”
The Next Case:
Real love or elder abuse?
The situation: In the fall of 2015, an octogenarian gentleman from Virginia (let’s call him G.K.) met a much younger woman (M.C.) and, soon enough, they were married. The groom doted on M.C. and began lavishing gifts upon her — a late-model Jaguar, real estate, thousands of dollars to pay off M.C.’s bills. But there was trouble in paradise. Within a year, it became clear that M.C. was funneling some of the riches to a boyfriend.