One of the greatest things about this country that we live in is the freedoms we enjoy.
Those freedoms were embedded in my parents. They believed in them, serving the country that proclaimed them after growing up in families that served as well. They believed in the Declaration of Independence, which held “these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”—otherwise known as the American dream.
Unfortunately, this phrase is not legally binding.
Sadly, I have watched as my father’s pursuit of happiness was swept away by the court system in his senior years. His liberty, including his freedom to live according to his lifelong and clearly stated desires, was destroyed by a conservator and attorneys fueled by greed.
He and my mother, Lester Moore and Lou Dell Hart Moore, were both survivors of the Great Depression. They both grew up in the South, experiencing extreme poverty before climbing out and crafting a life and a family together. Carefully and responsibly, they built assets that grew over time and made plans for the future. They could not have known—so few people do—that a system of legalized theft exists that would toss aside their plans and siphon off much of their money. Called conservatorship in some states, guardianship in others, it has stripped away the rights and assets of vulnerable people across the country, including the aged, the disabled, and people labeled with psychiatric disorders.
Lester was born in Van Buren, Arkansas, the first of nine children. He had one pair of pants and one shirt that his mother would frequently wash so that he could attend school. He wore a pair of hand-me-down shoes. His dream was never to be poor again when he joined the US Navy at age 17 and traveled to California for boot camp. Because he was so tiny, he had to gorge himself on bananas to make the weight required to enlist.
During the next five years, covering his time during the Korean War, he sent his paychecks home to his parents to help with the expenses of his younger siblings. After separating honorably from the Navy and going home on leave, he decided to return to California to train to be an aircraft mechanic.
My Mother, Lou Dell, was also a survivor of the Great Depression in Texas, and she also spent time in the military. She joined the US Army during WWII, serving stateside.
My parents met while both working at Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank, Calif., and were married in 1952.
Lester was very serious-minded and, like most Southerners, he loved his home state and the idea of owning land there. In 1956, not even 30 years old, Lester bought his first 563 acres. The idea of eventually moving back to Arkansas was always on his mind. He would frequently travel there, ranching and raising cattle on his property with his younger brothers. My parents were frugal people, working hard and saving their money.
My father eventually left Lockheed, beginning his career at Flying Tiger Airline and later working with Federal Express when they acquired it. My mother became a fulltime mom when I was born, their only child, in 1957.
And they thrived.
In 1993, my parents created the Moore Family Trust, which clearly stated their financial and medical wishes. By then they had several million dollars in assets, including 600 acres of property and four homes in Arkansas, plus $600,000 in FedEx stock, a home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and hundreds of thousands of dollars in CDs, savings accounts, investment accounts, and oil and gas rights on their property.
My mother passed away in 2001. When my father was diagnosed with dementia in 2010, I assumed the role of Successor Trustee, per the trust documents. My children, spouse, and I live in Nevada, but I knew that my father’s plan was always to return to Arkansas to live on his property. He had no relatives in California and always wanted to “go home to Arkansas.” His siblings all lived there, too.
But in 2010, a predator female and a lawyer withdrew multiple thousands of dollars from his accounts and attempted to change the trust, and I was advised by an attorney that the only way to stop the harm to my father was to seek conservatorship for him.
I became aware of his dementia when my father reached out to me and asked for my help, as did his physicians at Kaiser Permanente as well as his financial advisor. So I went to California in 2009 to assist with paying his bills, and Dad introduced me to his tax accountant. While going through his checkbooks, I became aware that he was regularly giving large sums of money to Lilo Kruger, his “lady friend.” Dad had met her at a grief group in February 2004. Within three weeks, he had given her a check for $700.
That was just the beginning. He took her on many vacations—to Alaska, Hawaii, Panama, and Germany. He also gave her cash every two or three weeks. As I dug further, I began to suspect she was a predator who specifically went to the grief group to meet men to exploit financially.
At the same time, I learned that Lilo only had specific days and times that my Dad could visit her: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7-9 pm. When Lilo realized that I was aware of what she was doing, she had her friend’s son, attorney William Salzwedel, come on board to change the Moore Family Trust. He removed me as the successor trustee, placing himself as both successor trustee and my dad’s attorney in 2010. This was done nine months after my father had been declared incompetent by his longtime physicians.
Salzwedel proceeded to change the ownership of my father’s accounts that were originally in my name as the successor trustee of the Moore Family Trust.
But no longer.
The Absolute Power of Judge and Conservator
For the record: Lilo Kruger died about a year ago. Court documents show her involvement with William Salzwedel and the changing of the trust, and I have complained to the California State Bar about everything he did, so they are well aware of the havoc he has caused to my family.
My entire purpose, as both my father’s successor trustee and his daughter, was to protect him and to help him move to Arkansas to be with his siblings on his property—which had been his dream since the 1950s. I wanted things to be made right. I wanted the exploitation of my father by these two predators to be stopped. At the time, I believed it would be.
That’s when I sought out legal counsel by obtaining my own attorney, John Barlow. He said that the only way to fight Kruger and Salzwedel was to pursue conservatorship of my dad, even though there was a family trust from 1993, and my father had dementia that was attested to by his two physicians. Per the trust documents, I had already assumed the role of successor trustee. That should have been enough to help him.
If only I knew back then what I know now, that instituting conservatorship would make the situation so much worse. It literally opened my dad’s estate up to the looting by attorneys and conservators, blessed by a probate judge—all because of the advice of an attorney who, I realized too late, was complicit in the probate abuse in that court. In 2012 the probate judge, after delaying for 18 months, ignored the Moore Family Trust document and placed not me but an outsider, Angelique Friend, as his conservator and trustee.
Lester Moore never again saw his beloved state of Arkansas, not even to attend the funeral of his younger brother Bill in 2016. After the conservator was appointed in 2012, she never allowed my father to leave the state of California, even for a visit. My lawyer repeatedly told me that “we will get things turned around, and you will be put in charge.” It never happened. (As I did with Salzwedel, I have also made complaints against Angelique Friend to the Fiduciary Commission in California. The attorneys that I have supposedly had on my side are very much aware of my complaints against these people.)
None of this was in my dad’s best interest. There were many options for him to live out his life the way he intended. The only people served by keeping him in California were the conservator and the multitude of attorneys involved, all of them billing their hours to his estate.
The Arkansas property was disposed of by the conservator in 2016. Keep in mind that to a Southerner, property is everything. I remember the quote in the movie Gone With The Wind, when Scarlett’s father told her: “Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin’ for, worth fightin’ for, worth dyin’ for. Because it’s the only thing that lasts.” My father’s land was meant to stay in the family forever. There was never an inventory of the ranching equipment, vehicles, antique cars, guns, and houses full of family mementoes that were sold off. All of the excessive fees for the conservator and lawyers were rubber-stamped by the probate judge, who eventually retired, but it all continued with the judge who took over.
The conservator prevented my father from living in the Nevada State Veterans Home, where I am director of nursing, because she would not allow him to leave California. As my Dad’s dementia progressed, I believed that he would be happy near his family. But that suggestion was disregarded. In 2020, the home in Thousand Oaks was sold over my objections, and my dad was placed in a group home. From February of that year onward, I was not allowed to see my father—with the Covid-19 pandemic cited as an excuse. But the Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS) never had such a restriction. Families were allowed to see their elderly loved ones.
Within 11 months, Lester Moore was dead of sepsis, caused by bowel obstruction from a fecal impaction, all resulting from caregiver negligence. This was substantiated by the State of California licensing agency for group homes.
I was notified—by email!—of my father’s death.
Over a year later, the judge ruled to hold back $250,000 from the Moore Family Trust assets, in case of further legal costs. Now my father has been dead for two and a half years, and they still have not released that money to me, the heir.
Just how long can this go on? The absolute power of the probate judge and conservator altered my dad’s last years and all that my parents planned for their assets. There appears to be no accountability for the predators that exploit the vulnerable elderly and their families. Conservatorships redistribute the victim’s wealth into the pockets of the conservators, the lawyers, and the judges.
Horrific stories of the corrupt conservatorship/guardianship racket need to be told. The dirty little secret of what happens so often in probate court must not be hidden from the public any longer. We need justice for victims. We need a movement to educate people about the harms. It needs to happen.
Vultures Lining Up To Pick Off The Bones
How has all this affected me? How do I feel about what has occurred to my father at the hands of those whose primary mission was to gain access to his assets? It is surprising to me, all the many emotions that have surged over the unnecessary suffering brought upon my family by the perpetrators of our misery and the root cause, greed. Over the years, I have felt angry, powerless, shattered, disappointed, and disillusioned. I am heartbroken for what was planned for and supposed to be—but was destroyed by the probate court system.
Initially, I had confidence in the justice system. I unshakably believed that the theft by Lilo Kruger and William Salzwedel would be stopped by someone: the police, adult protective services, Thousand Oaks Senior Concerns, the district attorney, or the probate judge. I had confidence that someone would see the big picture.
The first court proceeding I attended in probate court, I was shocked at all the attorneys present who received assignments from the judge, such as the one in charge of my dad’s assets. As we all walked out of the court into the parking lot, I watched the attorneys in their expensive custom suits and Italian leather shoes, getting into their Mercedes Benzes, Land Rovers, and Jaguars—and it hit me in a way that has stuck with me for years. They were vultures lining up to pick off the bones. It was like a premonition of what was to come.
All of this was exactly what my father had tried to avoid by having a family trust created in 1993.
As a result, after the judge placed my father into a private, for-profit conservatorship—instead of adhering to the trust that named me, the only child, the successor trustee—I felt not just disappointed but sickened. I asked myself: how could this happen? No one did what they should have done. They did what they could do. There was no protection of a vulnerable man with dementia; instead, it was done to gain access to his $3-plus million estate. This has become clearer to me as the years have passed, and I have met so many other victims of the same racket in this country.
I have reached out to governors, senators, congressmen, district attorneys, and the state attorney general, only to be told it was a civil matter—or to have it ignored altogether. This is the country that my family has served in the military for generations, from my great grandparents to my parents, uncles, cousins, sons, husband, and myself (as a U.S. Army nurse).
As Winston Churchill once said, “Never give in, never, never, never, never.” I believe that. But I have fought this monster for 14 years. Where do I go from here? Sometimes, things happen that are so out of our control that there is nothing we can do to alter the results.
My father’s conservatorship did not protect my father, it devastated him and his family.
This can happen to anyone.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
Mad in America has made some changes to the commenting process. You no longer need to login or create an account on our site to comment. The only information needed is your name, email and comment text. Comments made with an account prior to this change will remain visible on the site.