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AG Nessel Resolves Wayne County Guardianship Case

LANSING – Attorney General Dana Nessel today announced resolution of a Wayne County professional guardianship case she intervened in early November of 2022. 

Wayne County Probate Judge Lawrence Paolucci held two hearings and provided Patricia Dudek, an appointed guardian and conservator, with the opportunity to formally respond to the Attorney General’s Notice of Intervention and Objections to her Amended Final Account of Fiduciary.

Despite an extension of time for a response, Dudek did not file a written response to the objections from the Department of Attorney General.  The court followed the Department of Attorney General’s recommendations for evaluating the fees and ordered a total refund of over $41,000. 

The refund was offset by about $12,000 in payments Dudek made on behalf of the protected individual, pursuant to the court’s first order.  Dudek refunded $21,000, and at the second hearing, she was ordered to refund $8,787.12 more.  Additionally, Dudek was not allowed to place a lien on any future personal injury recovery the individual may obtain. In sum, Dudek billed the individual $78,962.20 in legal and fiduciary fees and was only awarded $3,136.17, or about four percent, of the total she billed.

This result follows a 2020 suspension for 90 days of Dudek’s license to practice law for among other things, charging a client an excessive fee

“I am pleased at the outcome of our intervention and would like to thank Wayne County Probate Judge Lawrence Paolucci for his stellar thoroughness and dedication in protecting the ward who was the subject of this case.” said Nessel.  “While many professional guardians consider their work public service and labor tirelessly on their files—there remain some bad actors out there who exploit vulnerable individuals. Those who take advantage of vulnerable individuals hoping that overwhelmed courts may not notice, beware. Our department will endeavor to intervene in these cases in order to protect the public.”

In October 2021, 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 inventory accounting for current assets was 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 and has a duty to act with the highest degree of honesty 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 by providing more than 630 pages of emails.

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.

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Please note: A criminal charge is merely an allegation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.