Alzheimer’s Sufferer’s Family Fights for Control

Betty Lou“The very court system she served, and was honored by, is now bilking Retired Orange County Superior Court Judge Betty Lou Lamoreaux of her life savings,” says Duff McGrath, her 58-year-old nephew and a trustee.

Judge Lamoreaux is now in danger of being financially ruined. And this is caused partially by the justice system to which she dedicated her life. Lamoreaux, who is 92, has Alzheimer’s dementia, and her family – primarily her nieces and nephews –is trying to care for her and preserve her estate. Lamoreaux has no children. However, the family has disagreed over how best to do that and about who should be in charge of her money. Consequently, a court battle has ensued.

Remarkably, the Lamoreaux dispute has included three judges and nine lawyers and related professionals, with more attorneys planning to join in the case. Some in the family worry that the probate fight could result in attorney fees gobbling up “Auntie Lou’s” nest egg – forcing her to sell her $1.8 million house in Newport Beach. They argue that the probate court’s rules are the problem.

These frustrations are felt by others in probate court, where the affairs of a loved one can be removed from family members and assigned to experts at expensive rates. Each year, about 5,000 probate-guardianship cases slog through probate court in Orange County.

Typically, the work is conducted by qualified and sincere professionals attempting to protect their clients, but the process of turning a person’s affairs over to lawyers and can get expensive, even when fees must be approved by the court.

Until a few years ago, Lamoreaux shared her home with her 87-year-old sister and a niece. As her dementia got worse, the home fell into disrepair, to the point of being unhealthy, according to court records. McGrath and other family members went to probate court in 2015 in an attempt to get a court order that would give them the authority to keep Lamoreaux from those they felt would do her harm. McGrath moved Lamoreaux from her house to a senior living center while her home was undergoing repairs. The court responded by appointing two people to the case, an attorney and a guardian, also an attorney, to represent Lamoreaux. That’s when the real trouble started.

The court appointees, after speaking with Lamoreaux, thought she wanted to move back home with her sister. A judge agreed and ordered McGrath to help her move back home. McGrath has appealed that order and hired his own legal team. They argued that Lamoreaux should stay at the center, which has the expertise and facilities to care for her properly.

As Lamoreaux’s case moved forward, additional professional consultants, a fiduciary, and more lawyers – all charging from $200 to $450 an hour – were added. McGrath said the total, when everybody is working, including his attorneys, adds up to about $3,000 an hour.

Lamoreaux’s fate now is in the hands of a judge, who will decide whether McGrath should be removed from his trustee position. According to court records, Lamoreaux’s doctor said she shouldn’t be moved at this time, and she repeatedly tells friends that she wants to stay at the center. The attorney appointed by the court to represent Lamoreaux asked for an emergency hearing to determine if McGrath should be removed as trustee and replaced with a yet another professional.

Reference: The Orange County (CA) Register (October 18, 2016) “The perils of probate court: Former judge with Alzheimer’s could lose her life savings”


Like this article?

Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on Linkdin
Share on pinterest
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment


We have a LOT more where that came from!

We hate spam too. We will never share or sell your information.

Call Now ButtonCall Us Now https://jsfiddle.net/7h5246b8/

Request a free consultation

We hate spam too. We will never share or sell your information.

We've been putting together as many resources as possible so that we can continue to help:

  • If you’re a current client with a signing appointment or a prospective client with a consultation and would prefer that meeting take place in your own home, we can accomplish that with a little bit of pre-planning on our part and with the addition of a laptop, smartphone, tablet or other computer in your home to facilitate this virtual meeting. For those of you that need to sign legal documents, that too can be accomplished with the use of a webcam (FaceTime etc.), so that we can witness and electronically notarize all of your important legal documents.
  • We launched the rollout of our on-demand webinar early so that new clients and our allied professionals can view the important component parts of ‘an estate plan that works’ at their convenience.  That is available on our website.
  • Live video workshops will be produced as quickly as possible and certainly ahead of our previous schedule; we will keep you posted as these events become available. Given the ‘boutique’ nature of the firm, we rarely have more than ten people in our office including team members at any one time. During this period of ‘social distancing,’ we promise to have no more than 8 people at any time.   This allows us to comply with the Governor’s directive to limit in-person gatherings.
  • The best way to communicate with us is still by phone during regular office hours of 8:30 to 5:00, Monday through Friday, or, you can email any of our team members (that is, their first name followed by @zarembalaw.com).  We will respond to these emails as quickly as possible.
  • Please continue to follow the directives of our local, state, and federal agencies. For your health and in consideration of our team who is assisting you, if you’ve scheduled an office appointment or planned to drop off paperwork and are experiencing a fever, dry cough, or shortness of breath, please contact your primary care doctor for guidance and then our office to reschedule.

Thank you, Walt and the Zaremba Team

Update to our Process

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has taken our entire country by surprise. We understand how difficult this time is for America’s businesses and families.  However, we believe it is vitally important that we make every effort possible to continue to offer solutions that avoid disrupting our important partnership with you, your family and friends.  As you know, estate planning is not something that should wait for a more convenient time, therefore the opportunity to address your important goals both during and after this crisis should not wait.  To that end, we have added the option of a ‘virtual consultation’ to our office process.  You will now have a choice of either meeting with us in our office or in the comfort of your own home.