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ElderLawAnswers Attorney Helps Foil Woman's Alleged Attempt to Change Elderly Client's Will
As our population ages, stories of people gaining the trust of elderly individuals in order to steal their money or inherit their assets are increasingly common. Elder law attorneys have to be constantly on the lookout for such crimes as they protect their clients' interests.
Recently, Colorado ElderLawAnswers member attorney Brandon Fields (right) played a key role in identifying and reporting what, if prosecutors' charges are true, is a textbook case of elder financial abuse: the befriending and isolating of a 93-year-old widower by a much younger woman scheming to inherit his estate.
Louis Hall was a retired University of Colorado professor whose wife had died in 2001; the couple had no children. Starting in January 2010, Julianna Rigby, 50, the receptionist at Hall's ophthalmologist's office, began taking him to breakfast and visiting him in his home, according to police allegations reported in the Daily Camera, a Boulder news source.
By last October, Rigby had moved into Hall's home to care for him, reportedly out of love for Hall, who suffered from bone cancer and needed in-home care. Rigby allegedly proceeded to isolate Hall from friends, neighbors and family, including family members who stood to inherit most of his estate.
Fields, Hall's elder law attorney, became suspicious when Rigby tried to sit in on meetings between him and his client. When Fields recommended that a conservator and guardian be appointed to protect Hall's financial and health interests, Rigby objected to the appointments.
"Initially, when we met with her, she seemed too good to be true," said the proposed conservator, Martha Meshak. "She seemed willing to abandon her own life to take care of him."
In December, two months after Rigby had moved in, Hall came to Fields with notes for a new will. The marked-up draft document provided that the bulk of Hall's nearly $1 million estate, would go not to his family, but to "my friend Julianna Rigby."
At two subsequent meetings Fields tried to ascertain whether the new will reflected Hall's wishes, but Rigby repeatedly tried to interrupt these meetings and even attempted to fire Fields as Hall's attorney and bring in another attorney, but Hall would not agree to this.
Fields obtained an order of protection to remove Rigby from the home and keep Rigby away from Hall. Meshak and the guardian then arranged for Hall to receive 24-hour, in-home care until his death in February. Fields, Meshak and the presiding judge subsequently all contacted the district attorney’s office, which launched an investigation. Rigby has been charged with two felony counts of criminal attempt to commit theft.