Her Parents Were Kidnapped by a Professional Guardian

Rudy North was an avid reader, who had a sharp mind and liked to write down quotes from his favorite books. Rennie, his wife of fifty-seven years, was recovering from lymphoma and suffered from neuropathy so severe that her legs felt lifeless. Yet, she spent her mornings prettying herself up for her husband, who referred to her as his “amour.” She was still of sound mind, and enjoyed the conversations she had with her husband and her nurse.

Rennie was happy living in her home on the outskirts of Las Vegas with her husband Rudy, a retired consultant for broadcasters. Rennie had the help she needed, with a nurse that visited five times a week to help her bathe and dress.

Retirement was going well for the Norths, until one summer day in August of 2013, when April Parks, a so-called “professional guardian” allegedly kidnapped Rudy and Rennie. They had no idea what was happening. Their only daughter, Julie Lynn Belshe, knew nothing about this. Julie says she was in daily contact with her parents and visited often, along with her husband and children. Julie says she was never contact by lawyers or by the court; never went to court; did not receive any phone calls from any lawyers or the court; and there were no letters or court documents sent to their home.

April Parks, who allegedly identified herself as an officer of the court, showed up at the North’s home with an entourage of other people. According to Julie’s parents, Ms. Parks and the others told them, “We have an emergency order to remove you from your home. You have three choices; we can call the police and you will go to jail; you can come to Lakeview Terrace (assisted living facility) in Boulder City and stay there; or you can be placed in a psychiatric ward.” Rennie started crying and told them to leave her home; Rudy, who was very worried about his wife, said they would go to Lakeview. April Parks told Rennie, “Don’t worry, you are only going there to rest for three weeks.” They were then put in a car and taken away.

The house they were living in was emptied of all of their personal belongings, allegedly stolen by the guardian. Many items were also discarded, which their daughter found in trash bins. The money in their bank accounts was allegedly stolen by April Parks, along with their identity; licenses, credit cards, and social security cards. Court hearings were held and, according to Julie, “all court documents were fabricated with a host of lies, including the story that she was an addict.” Julie spoke up in court but said that the judge ignored everything she said. According to information given to Julie by other sources, the judge and guardian already had a large number of complaints filed against them.

Parks continued to control every aspect of Rudy and Rennie’s lives — where they would live, how their money was spent, what items they could keep –and sometimes, who they could see. She charged their estate exorbitant amounts for simple tasks, such as opening mail.

In 2015, the North’s nightmare was over. The court found that Parks failed to protect the Norths and, especially, their estate. When referring to April Parks, Guardianship Commissioner Jon Norheim said, “She’s supposed to block the money. She’s supposed to come to court for release. That didn’t happen. It got spent. Things got sold. None of that was supposed to happen!”

Norheim took private, for-profit guardian April Parks off the case of Rudy and Rennie North. Guardianship was given instead to their daughter, Julie Belshe, who’s been fighting to get her parents out of the system for nearly two years. This disturbing situation hopefully paved the way for others in a similar situation to escape, since sadly, the Norths were not the only ones affected by this nightmare.

The example at the core of this story is very disturbing but also, thankfully, very unusual. It would appear that Nevada may have very unusual guardianship laws. And it is important to note that different laws govern different jurisdictions, and that there are many where the laws are humane and direct the guardian to give the ward maximum self-determination and provide counsel or a court-appointed independent investigator for the proposed ward, impose court supervision over the guardian as well a criminal background checks, among many other protections for wards and potential wards.

You can read more about this case in this recent New Yorker article.

What is Guardianship and How Could This Have Happened?

Guardianship is a legal relationship in which the court authorizes one person with the power to make personal and/or financial decisions for another person. The person authorized with decision-making power is known as the guardian and the person for whom the decisions are being made is known as the ward. Guardianship over the person typically goes along with Conservatorship over property, which in some states is called Guardianship over Property.

Guardianship and Conservatorship is assigned when a person has been determined by a judge to lack the capacity to make rational and intelligent decisions in regard to his or her own medical decisions and/or finances. Usually it is a family member who applies for Guardianship and Conservatorship, but it can also be a friend, or in some cases the County or City in which the ward resides. In some cases, as was the case with the Norths, a third party may be appointed as Guardian and/or Conservator, particularly if no one close to the ward is deemed appropriate. Conservators are subject to the nightmare of “living probate,” meaning that, among other things, they must file annual accountings every year with the Probate Court or Commissioner of Accounts.

A Power of Attorney is a legal document created by one person, known as the principal, to give another person, known as the agent, legal power to act on behalf of the principal. The document can grant either broad and unlimited powers or limited powers to act in specific circumstances or over specific types of decisions. Typically a Power of Attorney is effective immediately, but is intended to be used only when necessary at some future date.

In most cases, Power of Attorney is greatly preferred to Guardianship because:

• The principal retains more control over who makes the decisions and what decisions they can make;
• Power of Attorney has significantly lower costs compared to applying for guardianship;
• No court is involved when creating or using a Power of Attorney;
• No annual accountings are required to be filed when using a Power of Attorney;
• More privacy is maintained with a Power of Attorney (probate court proceedings are public record);
• The principal may revoke the Power of Attorney at any time so long as the principal has the mental capacity to do so, whereas a Guardianship and Conservatorship can only be revoked by the court.

A Power of Attorney would have been a preferable option for the Norths, to avoid the nightmare they went through, since they were both competent and of sound mind.

Do You Have a Power of Attorney?

A properly-drafted Financial Power of Attorney is the most important legal documents that a person can have, and is an essential part of every Incapacity Plan and Estate Plan. It authorizes an agent, sometimes called “Attorney-in-Fact,” to act on your behalf and sign your name to financial and/or legal documents.

If you have not done Incapacity Planning or Estate Planning, or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, the time to plan is now.

In addition, if you have not updated your planning documents in a while, don’t let too much time pass between reviews of your plan. The cost of a review is minimal; but the cost to your family if you neglect your plan could be disastrous. Be sure to ask about The Farr Law Firm’s Lifetime Protection Program, which ensures that your documents are properly reviewed and updated as needed, so that they will have the proper effect under the law.

Please contact us as soon as possible to make an appointment for a consultation:

Fairfax Power of Attorney: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Power of Attorney: 540-479-1435
Rockville Power of Attorney: 301-519-8041
DC Power of Attorney: 202-587-2797



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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.