Gerarda White-Penny (left) and daughter London Penny.
Bonnie Lou White and Gerarda White-Penny had a perfect life. Mother and daughter lived together, each doing their part to get by. Things changed rapidly after Bonnie Lou White wrote her will and trust, and a cousin found out she wasn’t a beneficiary.
The cousin petitioned the probate court in 2017, and the probate quickly bypassed any claim the cousin thought she had. But that wasn’t the end of it. Probate court officials immediately took over anyway, took out a $900,000 reverse mortgage and installed new doors, windows and floors, all at White’s expense.
After the upgrades, the court was gracious enough to allowed White to live in her home a few months before the conservator moved White to a nursing home.
White has made it clear to the court that she wants to live at home. White has no mental incapacity, she wants to be at home with Gerarda and her grandbaby.
White has been in the nursing home since January, and in September the daughter received an eviction notice.
“I’ve got less than a month before I lose mom’s home. Our home is worth over $1 million but they’ve listed it at $780,000. The court is probably going to sell it to one of their friends,” Gerarda said. “They say they’re going to pay medical expenses, but my mom has long-term care insurance. Why are they doing this to my family? We were doing fine. The Court said our house needed upgrades so they put in new windows, doors and floors. Who really needs these things, us, or the people they intend to sell it to?”
“My cousin filed the petition, which made us come to court and they conserved my mother. My cousin is not in my mom’s will and she is excluded in the trust. All she got was to see my family destroyed.”
The purpose of the probate court is to conserve families, and do what’s in their best interest.
Unfortunately many court appointed officials don’t abide by the rules written in the Probate Handbook. In the Handbook is written, “when at all possible keep the Conservatee in the home, that’s the best place for them to be.”
Current probate officials are quick to take over conservatorship because that’s how they make their money. It’s a business, a profession. Gerarda’s story is a common one.
Gerarda is fighting back. She has filed a petition to dismiss her mother’s conservatorship and taken the civil case to the Alameda County district attorney’s office. “When people file a petition, especially one where their name ain’t on nothing, the court needs to consider the person’s motivation bringing the petition, or just abide by what the will and trust says. They bypass your trust like it doesn’t exist. Courts allow these petitions because that’s the wedge they need to take over people and their estates,” she said.
SHOUT OUT JUSTICE and Cedar California recently joined with national probate fighting network “Probate Warriors.” “We find that the only time we get the court to stop running over us is when we get media attention,” says, SOJ’s Venus Gist. “Probate Warriors are families committed to fight what is becoming an epidemic of abuse by probate officials and judges nationwide.”