Negative press has yet again fallen on the guardianship probate court process and especially a Macomb County judge who has been embroiled in similar circumstances previously. An investigation by 7 Action News has seen the State Supreme Court and the Attorney General take action. The guardianship company who were appointed by The Macomb County Judge (Kathryn George) have now requested to be removed. The family have been contacted by the lawyer acting for ‘Caring Hearts Michigan’ and advised they are also dropping a restraining order they had initiated against the family. The family went to court in November 2018 for guardianship.
The daughter had previously, and what would be routine for a family member, sought the guardianship probate court direction. Both the parents (Father and step-mom) are suffering from dementia and the law states that the daughter is a “priority” under guardianship probate court. However the judge had different views and expressed concerns over her parents and directed Caring Hearts Michigan as guardian and conservator instead. The daughter confirms that while in court she felt extremely intimidated. Thereafter the parent’s round the clock caregivers were a company called Executive Care owned by a Cathy Kirk who also coincidentally owns Caring Hearts Michigan i.e. she hired her own company. Court policy is unequivocal in that a business relationship must be disclosed and that the law does not provide for profit or enrichment in such a way. Guardians are, of course, allowed to charge for their time and services but the arrangement and how it has come about raises some questions. In essence a self selected service provider, remunerated as the service provider and guardian.
Following further investigation by 7 Action News a number of further issues came to light. The restraining order against the family was by Michael C Taylor who was the attorney acting for Caring Hearts Michigan. Mr Taylor is the mayor of Sterling Heights and works for the law firm belonging to Robert Kirk (Cathy Kirk’s husband). Mr Kirk works in the probate courts (Macomb County) as a Public Administrator. In a joint statement On Friday Macomb County Circuit and Probate courts Chief Judge James Biernat Jr. Together with Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack confirmed that Michigan residents must have confidence in the probate courts and that their rights are being protected. That’s why the Michigan Supreme Court is working with the Attorney General on the Elder Abuse Task Force to address concerns raised over the guardianship probate court system.
The Attorney General has been commended for the action taken to date regarding Probate Judge Kathryn George. The full powers of the attorney’s office will be exercised to ensure proper and robust procedures are in place and family’s rights are the priority along with the treatment of vulnerable adults. Though interesting to note that Caring Hearts Michigan blames their resignation on “disruption from family members”. The case will be heard later this month and Judge Kathryn George will not be involved.
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