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Articles on guardianship left out many critical facts

The Journal recently published a series of front-page articles on guardianship, using the story of Blair Darnell as the central focus.

The reporter who wrote the story was not able to obtain detailed information from the people with inside knowledge of the true facts of the Darnell case, due to the sequestration (privacy) rule that makes it impossible for those insiders to speak about the case. Instead, the reporter relied primarily on the biased reports of some family members for the critical details of the story of Blair Darnell’s last few years of life.

The reporter got the Blair Darnell story wrong in many significant ways. The family was given ample opportunity to participate in the court process and was represented by multiple attorneys who were able to get the family’s point of view heard by the judge. Many hours were devoted to court hearings over the six-plus years the Darnell case was active.

The Journal article also overstates the value of the Darnell estate, including the value of the farm property sold. The article doesn’t mention that the family interfered with the first prospective sale until the buyer withdrew his offer. The article doesn’t tell you that the next-door neighbor said he was no longer interested in buying the property once the first buyer walked away. Most importantly, the article doesn’t tell you that Blair Darnell was on the verge of running out of money to buy food or to pay for her 24/7 caregivers, and that the sale of the farm property was essential to keeping her fed and cared for.

The Journal article doesn’t explain that the fence around the acre containing Blair Darnell’s home was put there to make it safe for her to remain in her home and sit outside without wandering away, due to her advanced dementia, rather than having her moved to a secure nursing home and away from the farm that she loved so dearly. The article doesn’t tell you that Blair Darnell was able to peacefully die in her own home, with her family at her side, despite the sale of the property over a year earlier.

The deal struck by the conservator included a life estate, so that Blair Darnell could remain in her home until her death. That life estate significantly reduced the value of the property to the buyer, because it prevented him from beneficial use of the property for as long as Blair lived. The price he paid reflected that. Her family history suggested she might live well into her mid-90s, although sadly she died at 85 years of age.

The Journal article also fails to tell you that the sale of the Darnell farm was consistent with the appraisal of the property done just prior to the sale. The article implies that the property was sold by the conservator without the assistance of a real estate broker. However, there was a listing agent, a separate buyer’s agent, and a completely arms-length transaction by parties who did not know each other. The buyer spent hundreds of thousands of dollars improving the run-down property before he resold it, and the real estate market was much stronger by the time the property was resold.

The court has given me permission to provide this information to correct the record. It was my great honor to help Blair Darnell live out her final years contentedly at her farm. Fortunately, due to advanced Alzheimer’s disease, Blair was mostly oblivious to the family turmoil that occurred around her during her final years.

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