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23 Mile Buckskin Gulch Hike

Lest any of our friends or clients think that all we do is go to court, take depositions and sit in the office talking on the phone or doing research and writing, we decided to share the video of our epic hike of Wire Pass, Buckskin Gulch and Paria River.  Our attorneys Kent Berk, George Smith and Justin McKay completed the 23+ miles in about 10 hours on June 12, 2016.  It was awesome!  Around every corner was another unique and beautiful scene, each created by nature.

Buckskin Gulch is apparently the longest slot canyon in the world.  The canyon is unique because of the length and depth of its ever changing narrows. The narrows extend uninterrupted for nearly 15 miles.  Some of the canyon walls extend up to 500 feet.  A trip through the dark, narrow canyon is an unforgettable experience. Watch our video to get a sense of the magnitude and awe inspiring natural beauty of this amazing (and very long) hike.

Keeping a Healthy Brain

Brain HealthMost people are concerned about keeping their brains healthy and active as they age. With high anticipated rates of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia projected for the future, this should be important for everyone. Indeed, the Alzheimer’s Association reports that 1 in 3 seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. To learn more about Alzheimer’s and dementia, read our article about Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in Arizona Will and Trust Contests. So, what exactly can we do to keep our minds in top shape?

Research regarding brain health has come a long way. Before getting to the current recommendations, here are some tips, published over 400 years ago in 1596, to keep your brain healthy from author A.T., written in his book A Rich Store-House or Treasury for the Diseased:

  • Eat sage, but not too much
  • Keep the head warm
  • Wash your hands often
  • Smell red roses
  • Wash your temples with rose water
  • Drink wine, measurably, and
  • Listen to little music

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2016 Arizona Probate and Elder Law Legislation Updates

AZ houseDuring the 2016 State of Arizona Fifty-second Legislature Second Regular Session, the House of Representatives has proposed three bills and the Senate has proposed one bill with proposed amendments to Arizona’s elder laws.  The proposed revisions involve powers of attorney, claims for financial exploitation under Arizona’s Adult Protective Services Act, A.R.S. 46-451 etc. and guardianships.

Powers of Attorney

A.R.S. § 14-5501 sets forth, among other things, the requirements to create a valid durable power of attorney in Arizona.  Basically, a “durable” power of attorney is one that either (a) stays in effect notwithstanding that the principal (the one granting the power) becomes incapacitated or disabled or (b) becomes effective when and if the principal becomes incapacitated or disabled.

Pursuant to A.R.S. § 14-5501(B), the intent to create a durable power of attorney may be expressed by the following or similar language in the power of attorney: [Read more…]

Attorney Kent Berk Featured on Money Radio 1510

Scottsdale Money Radio | Kent BerkLast week one of our very own was featured on Money Radio 1510AM – Phoenix to discuss several topics, including elder abuse and financial exploitation.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

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Kent Berk to be Interviewed on Money Radio

Join Kent for a discussion regarding elder law on Friday, January 29, 2016 from noon to 1:00 PM on Money Radio 1510 AM or 99.3 FM.  The show can be heard live on www.moneyradio1510.com.  Kent will discuss claims and remedies for financial exploitation of vulnerable adults under Arizona’s Adult Protective Services Act, including:

  • Purposes & Construction of the Act.
  • Who is protected?
  • Who is subject to the Act?
  • What are the requirements of the Act?
  • What are the remedies?
  • Other issues.

Mark your calendars for this informative broadcast.

Whitney Houston’s and Daughter’s Estates Embroiled in Disputes

Whitney HoustonThe death of Whitney Houston was a devastating loss to the music and acting communities, and the world. The talented singer was found dead in February of 2012. Trouble regarding the singer’s estate began brewing almost immediately. Her ex-husband, Bobby Brown, and Houston’s family were not getting along. Brown left Houston’s funeral. Concerns circulated that Brown would use the couple’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina, in order to gain access to Houston’s estate. It is speculated that Whitney Houston’s estate is valued between $12 million and $20 million.

Unfortunately, Bobbi Kristina was struggling with her own battle with substance abuse at the time of her mother’s death. Family members worried that if Houston left her assets to Bobbi Kristina, Bobbi Kristina would not be responsible enough to handle it all, or that father Bobby Brown would attempt to gain conservatorship over Bobbi Kristina in an effort to get his hands on the money. In fact, according to James Alexander of the Express, shortly after Houston’s death, Bobby Brown did express interest in obtaining conservatorship of his daughter if she did not clean up and change her life.
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Alzheimer’s Disease and Sleep

Almost everyone these days could use more sleep.  But, Alzheimer’s disease and sleep is now apparently a special concern for the elderly and their family members.  With over 5 million Americans currently suffering from Alzheimer’s, and that number is expected to double within ten years, researchers are trying to determine additional risk factors in order to attempt new treatment methods.  Dr. Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley, recently discussed the link between sleep deprivation and Alzheimer’s disease.Human brain

Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a buildup of the protein known as beta-amyloid as well as the tangled fibers of the protein called tau.  These sticky, brain-clogging proteins build up inside of spaces between nerve cells as well as inside cells.  New research revealed that sleep deprivation can spur these proteins to grow and further cause disruption in the sleep cycle.  This vicious cycle results in an accumulation of the Alzheimer’s causing plaques and tangles and has been linked to poor memory.

Dr. Walker’s team discovered during its research that sleep problems can interact with the Alzheimer’s disease process.  This information helps to explain how the plaque and tangles can begin to damage the brain long before symptoms and problems develop.  The good news is that sleep is modifiable and researchers are looking at improving people’s sleeping patterns as a new form of treatment.  Certain sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, contribute to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but treatment is available to correct these disorders.

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Financial Exploitation Finding Affirmed by Court of Appeals

Arizona’s Adult Protective Services Act protects Arizona’s large population of vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. The current version of the statute provides that a person who is acting in a position of trust and confidence must use a vulnerable adult’s assets solely for the adult’s benefit.  That statute was recently the subject of an Arizona Court of Appeals’ decision in the Estate of Domingo Rodriguez.

Factual Background

Domingo was an immigrant of Spain and did not speak or write English.  He had three adult children: John Rodriguez, Santiago Rodriguez, and Manuela Graca.  Domingo’s wife died in 2001, whereupon Domingo, then 80 years old, began living with Manuela and her husband, Manuel Graca.  At the time, Domingo had a pacemaker and needed assistance managing his finances.

The Gracas had extensive involvement in Domingo’s care and finances.

Over the next ten years, the Gracas provided all of Domingo’s care: arranged for and transported him to all medical appointments, administered his medications, assisted in all of his social and recreational activities, and cared for his dog. Manuela quit her job in 2001 to care for Domingo, but she eventually returned to work part-time and, later, full-time.

In 2002, they sold Domingo’s house and used some of the proceeds to expand their home to accommodate Domingo and make other renovations.  Later, they sold the home and used the funds to purchase another home.

While Domingo was living with them, the Gracas used funds from Domingo’s savings account, his monthly pension and Social Security to supplement their own income and help with household expenses.  However, importantly, the Gracas did not keep an accounting of their use of Domingo’s funds.

During at least the last two years of his life, Domingo suffered from dementia.  Domingo died in 2012 and John was appointed as personal representative of Domingo’s estate.  John then filed a complaint against the Gracas in which he alleged that they were liable for financial exploitation under Arizona’s Adult Protective Services Act, breached their fiduciary duties to Domingo, converted his money and enriched themselves with his property.  The Gracas denied wrongdoing and counter-sued for the value of the services that they rendered to Domingo as caregivers.

The Superior Court’s Decision

After a one day trial, the superior court found that the Gracas committed financial exploitation in violation of A.R.S. § 46-456 and breached their fiduciary duty to Domingo. The Court ordered the Gracas to pay Domingo’s estate damages in the amount of $15,527.26 and attorneys’ fees of $35,000.  The Gracas then appealed. [Read more…]

Sadomasochistic Relationship Leads to Exploitation Claims

What do sex, sadomasochism and financial exploitation have to do with each other?  This is not a joke!  Read more and find out.

In a recent Florida lawsuit, 68-year-old Alex Abrams claims that his sadomasochistic relationship with Judith Gumbrecht, also known as “Goddess Jude,” Goddess Judeallowed her to financially exploit him.  The allegations set forth in the lawsuit against Goddess Jude are intriguing and troubling, perhaps revealing a new method of financial exploitation of the elderly.

The Allegations

In 2011, Alex Abrams, then 63-years-old, divorced his wife of 32 years and was living alone. During this time, Abrams’ lawyers claim that he was suffering from severe clinical depression, an unspecified dementia condition and Alzheimer’s disease.  Abrams also had a history of ADHD and anxiety.  Because of Abrams’ age, medical and mental disabilities, his lawyers argue that Goddess Jude used their sadomasochistic relationship, which began in 2011 after Abrams’ divorce, for the purpose of financially exploiting Abrams.

According to the complaint filed against Gumbrecht in July 2015, she advised Abrams that it was “of the highest honor to be her financial slave.”  As a result, Abrams opened a new joint financial account with Gumbrecht, as well as made her an authorized user on Abrams’ credit card accounts.  Gumbrecht rewarded Abrams for these financial changes with sexual favors, but also threatened to punish him if he did not adhere to her financial instructions and requirements.

As a result of Gumbrecht’s control, Abrams claims that he transferred his Florida home to her via a Warranty Deed.  Gumbrecht also took more than $500,000 of Abrams’ money from his bank and credit card accounts.  Abrams’ attorneys claim that Gumbrecht was well aware of Abrams’ medical and mental health issues, as she attended a doctor’s appointment in which he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  Abrams alleges that in violation of Florida Statute §825.103, Gumbrecht exploited Abrams by using her relationship with Abrams to create a relationship of trust and confidence in order to knowingly obtain or use his funds, assets, or property for her benefit.

Much like Arizona’s financial exploitation statute, Florida law defines exploitation as, among other things, “knowingly obtaining or using, or endeavoring to obtain or use, an elderly person’s or disabled adult’s funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the elderly person or disabled adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property, or to benefit someone other than the elderly person or disabled adult, by a person who:  1.  Stands in a position of trust and confidence with the elderly person or disabled adult; or 2.  Has a business relationship with the elderly person or disabled adult.”

In May of 2015, Abrams formally demanded that Gumbrecht promptly return his property or pay for the full value of his property, funds and assets.  Gumbrecht apparently denied this request and, instead, threatened to expose their relationship to his children.

According to Court documents, using her status as a dominatrix, Goddess Jude was able to exploit submissive Alex Abrams, receiving his home and over $500,000.  While a lawyer for Abrams did state that Gumbrecht’s advertisement of “financial slavery” was within the bounds of legality, she went too far by exploiting the elderly man due to his mental and physical condition.

Berk Law Group is Here to Help

Typically, financial exploitation of elderly or disabled adults is committed by a family member, friend or caregiver.  However, a business relationship, such as the sadomasochistic relationship between Abrams and Gumbrecht, can also lead to financial exploitation.  If you believe you or a loved one may be a victim of financial exploitation, or would like to learn more about financial exploitation and elder abuse claims in Arizona, please contact us.

New Protections for Vulnerable Adults

Senior CitizenFinancial exploitation of vulnerable elderly adults is a serious problem.  Many seniors suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, which limits their ability to protect themselves from abuse, neglect or financial exploitation.  It makes them easy targets for unscrupulous caregivers, family members, friends or strangers.

Elder abuse costs about $3 billion dollars a year, according to Mary Mack, the president of Wells Fargo Bank’s brokerage division.  Combating exploitation requires new methods of protection.  What more can be done to help protect the financial security of our beloved vulnerable senior citizens?  Fortunately, there are some new ways.

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