Reprinted with Permission
Local Opinion Editor
The Washington Examiner
Think your well-tended nest egg will protect you from the depredations of old age? Don’t count on it.
Little has changed since the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled almost a decade ago that Probate Judge Kaye Christian abused her power by ordering retired economist Mollie Orshansky, creator of the federal poverty line, removed from her sister’s care in New York and placed in a District guardianship against her will.
Even multimillionaires cannot prevent a judge from appointing a total stranger to take complete control of their affairs — and banish family members who object.
That’s what happened to five-term D.C. Council member Hilda Mason and her husband, Charles, a Harvard graduate who traced his lineage back to the Plymouth landing. Despite Charles’ $22.5 million fortune, this power couple ended their lives in squalor.
Blind, wheelchair-bound and suffering from diabetes and skin cancer, Charles spent his last days in dirty clothing and worn-out shoes, with fingernails so long they curled around his fingers.
“He looked like a hobo,” one witness told The Washington Examiner. His frail wife suffered a broken collarbone when one of her “caregivers” ran her over with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
At the time of Hilda Mason’s death in 2007, debris and broken furniture littered every room of the couple’s once-stately Shepherd Park home. The roof leaked and the house was infested with rodents and insects.
As attorneys helped themselves to the couple’s assets, Episcopal Senior Ministries reported that “there appears to be no individual or group that is currently responsible for the cleaning/condition of the house.”
According to a Jan. 9, 2001, court transcript, a clearly competent Charles Mason testified before the same Judge Christian that he no longer wanted the Virginia attorney he had previously hired to represent him.
Less than three months later, Charles was declared incompetent after an adverse reaction to a psychotropic cocktail landed him in Suburban Hospital’s psychiatric ward. More