NJ.com reported the tragic story of Suzanne Araneo. She lost everything to a nursing home. She returned from Anchor Care & Rehabilitation to an empty home. Everything she owned was subsequently stolen, sold off or just thrown away in the trash, all without her knowledge or consent.
Araneo recalling the scene when she returned:
“It was like a knife through my heart. There was not one single thing left.”
According to a lawsuit, Shmuel “Sam” Stern coerced her to sign a durable power of attorney agreement while heavily medicated. Araneo recalled in an interview:
“Things got foggy. It was almost like I was having hallucinations. Sometimes they were dreams and I thought they were real. I was under that fog until I left there.”
She had no recollection of signing the agreement. Stern also barred her from seeing or having any contact with family. The agreement gave Stern the authority to to sell her property; conduct banking powers; manage her investments; borrow against her real estate and personal property; sell her car; conduct business in her name; prepare, file and sign tax returns on her behalf, access her safety deposit boxes, and sell any and all assets in her possession.
Stern took all of her money and other assets. Her niece, Rachel Paskitti, was blocked from any contact with her aunt. Stern did not allow her to visit. She was unable to reach her by phone. What a nightmare.
Issues of guardianship abuse are prevalent in the long-term care industry. A U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging in 2018 cited a number of incidents where “unscrupulous guardians acting with little oversight” used court proceedings to obtain control of “vulnerable individuals” and liquidated assets and savings for their own personal benefit.
This must stop.