by Athena Roe, J.D.

“If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.”

–The Honorable Louis D. Brandeis

The dangers facing a largely unsuspecting public looms large as families find their assets and civil liberties being high jacked and trampled by the legal industry via probate courts. Historically probate courts were specialized courts that handled the administration of estates, ensuring that the decedent’s wishes were carried out.Athena-Roe-photo

Today, probate courts have become venues for instant liquidation of assets, pillaging, legal abuse and other atrocities. Probate lawyers work with banks and realtors and are quick to jump in the game. Beneficiaries are denied due process rights and are threatened and harassed as their inheritance is depleted.

All too often there are bribes to public officials and law enforcement “looks the other way.” Lawyers devise schemes to defraud estates and others sell off property to their groups of cronies for pennies on the dollar. Families are destroyed, estates pillaged, inheritance depleted, careers shattered, as protracted litigation bankrupts the brightest and the best. Just ask the forty families who came forward to share their “horror stories of probate” at the state Capitol in July 2015.

This dirty little secret comes as a surprise to vulnerable family members facing the loss. Although public awareness is slowly growing, resistance to change plagues the industry. According to financial expert Juliette Fairley probate is big business topping nearly $41 trillion annually, double the energy industry.

For those of us who have legally abused by court appointed and estate lawyers experienced threats, corruption, forced to sign non-disclosure agreements to conceal the lawyers schemes and fraud, legal fee churning, and other abuses, life is never the same. New media websites like the Estate of Denial, F.A.C.E.U.S. (Denver), the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse, and HAR Justice’s, “The Economic Rape of America” along with online radio programs have done their part to “highlight” the issue, yet this ugly reality persists.

Senator Laura Woods of Colorado (District 19) has been the “people’s champion” on the topic of legal abuse and reform. Recently, Senator Woods held a well attended meeting at the state’s Capitol to discuss the topic. Members from the Colorado Bar Association, CBS and the Denver Post listened as families told their stories. Ideas flowed as ways to stop this predatory and wide-spread legal epidemic were presented.

Senator Woods remarked, “I have sat across from family after family who tell the horror stories of guardianship, conservator ships, and receivership’s. Literally these families have lost everything. Some are in bankruptcy, some are homeless, and it is truly heart-wrenching. ‘Protected Persons’ have lost their family possessions, photo, treasures, because a guardian who is supposed to be looking out for them, got involved and liquidated everything. And all of this is happening in America under the watchful eye of the judiciary. Unbelievable!”

Dr. Karin Huffer, Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan describes this type of legal abuse as “the number one public health threat of the 21st Century.” Dr. Huffer’s describes “protracted litigation as a public health risk” and labels this type of traumatic stress legal abuse syndrome (LAS). Frivolous litigation in probate courts can literally drain your family’s wealth. Lawyers invent ways to keep the estate in limbo and share the spoils in the end.

Senator Wood’s “Bill” is focused on civil court appointed fiduciaries. Senator Woods stated “court appointees are forced on a family without the family asking for it. Private attorneys can be fired by a family, but court-appointees are there until the judge removes them so they are the ones the legislation will concern itself with.”

While it is true that a family can fire a private attorney, it costs thousands of dollars to get a new attorney up to speed, and all too often the family gets a carbon copy of the previous racketeer/abuser. Nearly every family had “attorney shopped” after being sold out in probate courts. Good lawyers are hard to find and some activist lawyers have been punished for speaking out against legal corruption.

Richard Fine, a dapper Beverly Hills lawyer and former attorney at the Department of Justice experienced 14 months of solitary confinement for exposing the bribes in the California judiciary. Cole Stuart, a prominent San Diego attorney was falsely arrested for protesting the corruption in California’s family courts. Today, Stuart is suing the California Bar Association and Supreme Court for over $10 million dollars with the help of Dean Webb a Vancouver, Washington RICO lawyer. Numerous Colorado lawyers have fled the state when threatened to expose the corruption in Colorado courts.

Senator Woods hopes to have an outside review committee look at any “court-appointee’s behavior” at the request of a “family member or a judge.” The language of the Bill will specifically state that an “outside review HAS to happen if any interested party request it.” The Bill supports the review committees “jury of your peers” not simply another judge or another lawyer. Senator Woods has the support of other Senators and hundreds of Colorado’s families.

Attorney, Candice Schwager said, “Probate lawyers have special sets of rules that they draft to suit their flesh and line their own pockets, with the same lawyers who practice in these courts drafting the legislation to benefit themselves.”

Essentially, the same political machine that drives the careers of our judges, political attorneys, attorney generals, district attorneys, mayors, and governors drives the law of law enforcement for the white collar fraud and abuses in our probate courts.

It is not acceptable to the public that there remains no oversight, accountability, or transparency of such an empowered system. The good news is, if we all unite today, pressure our government for reform, we have no where to go but up. The hearing with Senator Woods and our united front in Colorado have shed light on the abuse and offer the citizens of our state the opportunity to change the system.