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Money alone provides no guarantee for a quality of life

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It’s natural to think that the extremely wealthy or famous are cocooned from spending their final days in abject conditions but wealth does not provide nearly the buffer from neglect or abuse we think it does.

Take for instance the case of Mickey Rooney.  In 2011, Mickey Rooney at age 90 came forward in a tearful testimony in front of Congress to talk about his exploitation at the hands of his step son. Story here.    “To those seniors and especially elderly veterans like myself, I want to tell you this: You are not alone and you have nothing to be ashamed of.  If elder abuse happened to me, it can happen to anyone,” Rooney said.

Rooney of course is not the only high profile victim.  In March of 2013, the Manhattan Appellate Division upheld the conviction of Anthony Marshall for looting his mother’s estate.  Story here.   Brooke Astor, an American philanthropist and socialite had an estate worth $185 million and in her final days lived in squalor without benefit of her medications.  She eventually was taken to the hospital where a nurse described her condition as “deplorable” before she was finally returned to her own home.  Among other things, Anthony Marshall who was in his 80s at that time was charged with stealing his mother’s fortune and forging her signature on her will.

Or take the case of Huguette Clark, Heiress to industrialist and U.S. Senator William Andrews Clark.  AT 104, she had been hidden away in a hospital room for 22 years.  Her wealth was estimated at nearly $500 million.  She had no children or close relatives.  Her attorney, Wallace Bock and her accountant, Irving Kamsler are under investigation for mishandling Clark’s estate.  Story here.

A will did not protect Brooke Astor.  Her son and lawyer were both convicted of siphoning off $10 million from her.  Huguette Clark’s vast fortune did not protect her from a request for guardianship or investigation by Adult Protective Services.   In Clark’s case, there have been allegations that her lawyer tried unsuccessfully to get Clark’s will changed.  Rooney’s case and the Brooke Astor’s case are often held up as examples of elder abuse but they also stand out as a failure to properly prepare for not just their deaths but also for any period of time when they became unable to care for themselves and needed to lean on friends or family members to help them to continue to live (and die) safely and with dignity.


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