Concerns Continue Over Guardianship In New Mexico
Commentary: Doris and Rio Hamilton allege that after they consulted lawyer CaraLyn Banks, she proceeded — without telling them — to have Ms. Hamilton declared mentally incompetent and Advocate Services (AS) appointed to take over her life and make all her decisions, including banning her son, Rio, from the house they own together.
Kise and Larry Davis would understand the Hamiltons’ situation. A well-meaning acquaintance of Kise reported her deteriorating cognitive abilities. Soon AS controlled her life, vilifying her beloved stepson, Larry. Banks was appointed “Kise’s” lawyer. Even after the court ordered Kise be transferred to California, near Larry, AS and Banks battled for another year, costing the family another year of agency fees — PLUS both Larry’s legal fees spent trying to free his stepmother, and Banks’ fees for opposing on Kise’s behalf, what Kise and Larry wanted.
While I’m sure that AS must do some good, families and friends of some AS “clients” say they don’t like or trust AS. Professionals who know the guardianship scene here have expressed similar feelings; and there’s a surprisingly strong dislike of Banks among lawyers who’ve opposed her in these matters. One lawyer with firsthand experience with AS said he'd like to see AS shut down, although there's a shortage of such businesses here. Others have expressed the belief that judges are "in on it." However, I’ve seen no basis for believing judges are involved in any dishonesty. Nor can I say anyone’s committed crimes.
The Hamiltons say Banks and AS “have demonstrated a pattern of exploitation of the elderly.” Lawyer Raul Carrillo told a reporter that in the Davis case, the fight to keep Kise in Cruces was “because of the vested interest of (AS).”
Banks says AS is one of three firms she uses, more or less in rotation, that “all three do a good job,” and that complaints from families are no more frequent with AS than with others in the field.
We all eventually need help. The need grows as we age, often living far from family, some of us without friends or family to provide that help. Too, not all families are benign, honest and competent enough to provide care.
But even where intervention is initially necessary and helpful, do AS and Banks fight to maintain their roles beyond when they’re really needed? They say they’re looking out for the “client’s” needs, but it seems a disturbing pattern. The owner of another agency, though she wouldn’t comment on AS, said that her company did everything possible to turn over control quickly to family or friends, as long as someone competent and honest was willing to take on the responsibility. That makes sense, both emotionally and financially. AS’s default mode seems to be to fight for their turf, above all; and some claim that’s particularly so when real property is involved.
The handyman who called for help with Kise offered to withdraw the petition once he met her stepson Larry, saying the move to California made sense. In the Goldberg case, the well-meaning friend who called Banks regretted it, and was appalled by how AS conducted its business. Doris Hamilton’s guardian ad litem, David Lutz, has stipulated to Rio being named his mother’s guardian. But that hasn’t happened. Maybe AS likes collecting fees or knows something we don’t.
I’m sure these folks started with great intentions and do some good; but even “professionals” don’t always know what’s right.