I watched a horror movie this weekend written by J. Blakeson. The scene near the end is the biggest horror, but not the ultimate ending.
The movie dramatizes a Guardian who builds up her personal wealth in unscrupulous, unethical, illegal ways under the cover of court authority. It is loosely based upon cases uncovered in Nevada and written about in a 2017 New Yorker expose. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say the main character is smooth; she knows all the right things to say. But there are no sympathetic characters in the movie.
From the moment the movie starts in the dark, the voice over gives a clue to the character’s motivation. It makes my heart drop into my gut.
“Look at you, sitting there. You think you’re good people. You’re not good people. Trust me. There is no such thing as good people. There are two types of people in the world. The people who take and those getting took. Predators and prey. Lions and lambs…I am a f–ing lioness.”
When any caring profession combines the authority to act for those who cannot take action for themselves with the ability to increase personal wealth, our society depends upon both laws and morality to reign in greed which can cause harm.
I watch this movie, horrified that it could be possible in a world where morals and laws don’t work to reign in the effects of greed in Conservator cases. It will be a primer for interns in the ACE Fiduciary Group, A Non-Profit Corporation. They will be asked to note how many ethics violations the main character commits.
If you watch this movie, I hope you remember the following:
When we are asked to serve as Conservator, we do so at the request of family members who know the proposed Conservatee, after a family doctor or one specializing in dementia evaluates the proposed Conservatee’s capabilities.
In California, when a Conservator case begins, the court appoints an attorney to represent the Proposed Conservator to protect their interest. The court normally grants only a Temporary Conservatorship for a few months at the start. This period of time is used to gather information and protect assets. It also gives the Proposed Conservatee time to discuss their wishes with both the court appointed attorney and the Conservator, and to appear in court.
Unlike this movie, when a Conservatee will be moved or real property will be sold, the Conservatee and family members are given notice. This takes time and allows everyone a chance to object to the action in court.
Unlike this movie, we NEVER take kickbacks, use services where we have financial interests, pay referral fees for cases, or select professionals based upon benefits they may wish to confer on us. We work with many qualified attorneys, investment advisors, tax preparers, real estate agents and others. We don’t enter into side deals, but rather choose vendors and professionals that provide the best level of service needed for a particular case.
While Conservator cases do confer quite a bit of authority in different decisions, these decisions are evaluated by the court, court investigators, court appointed attorneys, and our peers by whether they are in the best interest of the Conservatee. The controls we sometimes need to put in place are monitored by many people to make certain the Conservatee needs the care or controls. We model our practice on the National Guardian Association Code of Ethics, which is person centered.
We do not cut off mail, visitors, or calls. Rather when we are named as court appointed Conservator, we take the time to get to know the Conservatee and the family members. We seek choices that will support the person and the family through a difficult time.
Some of the most satisfying of the work we do becomes a kind of Collaborative Conservatorship. The elder is able to live in peace as they age. The family is able to see and interact without ongoing conflict over decision making. A recent Conservator family member wrote the following on our evaluation form after a very contentious Conservator case: “Loren was amazing – we had some big issues and she was astute, caring, and fair. I’d recommend her to anyone.” We regularly receive all 10’s on our evaluation form which is based upon the Planned Giving Design Center’s recommended attributes for a professional trustee.
Finally, the bedrock reason to select a non-profit, like The ACE Fiduciary Group, for serving as your fiduciary remains this: the fees charged for our services are fair and can withstand court scrutiny AND these fees are used to build up the organizational ability to meet community needs rather than build up an individual or partnership business owner’s wealth.
Well said. I felt sick and was disgusted by this film and could only sit through it for 19 minutes.
Loren: Thank you for the movie suggestion. My wife and I watched it last night. Entertaining but parts lack credibility. Good acting by the main characters. I definitely will recommend ACE over Ms. Pike’s organization! George Pfeiffer