At the age of 91, Mary Louise Terry was getting by on food stamps and monthly Social Security checks, living under the care of her son in her home of 11 years on Belen’s main street.
But a $100,000 insurance windfall Terry inherited after that son died in May 2015 marked the beginning of the end of her stable family life.
Terry, who has dementia, is now under a guardianship approved by a Valencia County district court judge. She is in her fourth nursing home in six months despite the fact she has three sons and a daughter-in-law willing to care for her.
Terry – who had two other sons die within three months of each other in 2015 – was assaulted last month by another nursing home resident and has since been moved to a different long-term facility in Albuquerque.
Her Belen house is gone, sold by the guardian/conservator who by law can be paid out of an incapacitated person’s assets. The state of her finances is unclear. And family members in New Mexico say court-appointed professionals rejected their offer to take care of Terry in their own homes.
“Mother should have been allowed to live whatever years she has left the way she wanted to. Like all the rest of us want to,” daughter-in-law Lois Painter of Albuquerque said last week.
“None of us wants to live like she has been living … Shuffled from one place to another, beat up, etc. No one, right mind or not, would want this happening to them or their loved ones. What would you think if this happened to your family?”
Court records show that in December 2015, Terry’s daughter who lives in Texas filed a petition seeking appointment of a professional guardian/conservator to oversee her mother’s finances and health care – all under a secret legal process that’s supposed to be a “last resort” to protect an incapacitated person.
Now, most if not all the $100,000 insurance proceeds are gone, other family members say.
They say the guardian/conservator firm, which handles all of the Terry’s finances, took control of her $753-a-month Social Security checks, which had previously been automatically deposited.
The New Mexico family complains that the guardian never closed her bank account, so hundreds of dollars of still-unpaid overdraft charges have been assessed. Late payment fees and disconnect charges accrued when the utility bills at the Belen home hadn’t been paid by the professional guardian. Her homeowners’ insurance also lapsed, Painter told the Journal.
Last fall, the guardian notified the family that Terry, now 93, had to move from her Belen house to a $5,500-a-month assisted living home. Just two months later, the family was told Terry was being evicted because her money had run out. Terry has lived in three other homes since then, but family members aren’t sure how those bills are getting paid.
“There’s been no accounting of money to us at all. None. All that was told is, Mary doesn’t have any more money,” Painter said.
Guardians have authority over the personal health and welfare of the individual adult deemed incapacitated by a court.
But family members say that, in the past year, the assigned professional guardian “never shows up” when issues with Terry’s care arise and consistently asks Terry’s son to respond to emergencies.
Roxanna Gates, owner of the guardianship company, CNRAG, Inc., declined to respond to questions from the Journal, citing confidentiality surrounding guardianship matters.
Painter said last month that CNRAG sold Terry’s Belen house for about $82,000, which Painter said was $40,000 under the appraised value. How much of that money will go to the guardian or other bills isn’t information that is furnished to her New Mexico family – only to the court. (Click to Continue)
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Family laments mom’s fate under court guardianship