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AG Nessel Intervenes in Wayne County Guardianship Case, Reminding Attorneys and Professional Guardians of Their Responsibility to Safeguard Vulnerable Adults
November 03, 2022
LANSING – Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a notice to intervene on behalf of the people of the State of Michigan in a Wayne County guardianship case. This action comes three years after the first intervention in a Macomb County guardianship case.
In October 2021, Patricia Dudek was appointed guardian and conservator for an individual with a $30,000 yearly income who also received an inheritance of about $42,000.
Dudek’s own accounting illustrates that between October 2021 and June 2022 she billed the protected person about $79,000 for less than a year’s work. Within about five weeks of receiving the protected individual’s $42,000 inheritance and before any assets were filed with the probate court, Dudek paid herself more than the protected individual’s entire inheritance, including charging for work she had not yet performed.
A fiduciary is an individual or organization who has a legal duty to act in the best interest of someone else with a duty to act with the highest degree of honesty and loyalty toward the protected person, including the duties of undivided loyalty, care and prudence in actions. Dudek charged her legal hourly rate of $350 for guardianship and conservator services and billed the protected person with more than 630 pages of text via emails. Dudekisaccused of breaching her duty as follows:
- Charging excessive and duplicative fees.
- Billing for services she represented would be free.
- Failing to guide the protected person to services he could afford.
- Failing to submit a bond as required by the court for her conservator work.
- Paying herself before services were provided.
- Failing to send the protected person or any other interested person (e.g., the protected person’s wife or his niece) information related to her services, billing practices, or copies of monthly bills.
- Failing to provide the protected person and the probate court with bills consistent with the court rules that require a “brief description of the services.”
“While most guardians and conservators work tirelessly for modest pay to ensure those under their supervision are well cared for, this case serves as additional notice that my office will not hesitate to challenge anyone who breaches their duty of loyalty to the most vulnerable among us,” said Nessel. “My continued thanks to Lakeshore Legal Aid who brought this case to our attention and all those working with the Elder Abuse Task Force to improve Michigan’s guardianship and conservatorship system.”
Any individual who believes they or a loved one have been taken advantage of by an attorney serving as a guardian or a conservator may file a grievance with the Attorney Grievance Commission.
If the guardian or conservator is not an attorney and the file is still open with the probate court, the complaint should be directed to the probate court where the guardian or conservator is serving.