The Problem

92-year-old Dr. Frank Griffin came to Rhoades McKee looking to retain his independence. His children believed that his age and his relationship with a much younger woman clouded his judgment and had petitioned the Probate Court to appoint a guardian and conservator for him.

After retiring from a successful medical practice, Dr. Griffin had substantial assets.  While he recognized that he did need professional counsel to manage and plan during this stage of his life, he was adamant that he was capable of making these decisions on his own.

Marian Burke was nearly 35 years younger than Dr. Griffin and her role in the doctor’s life was significant. Over the years, Ms. Burke moved into Dr. Griffin’s condominium, provided personal and health care services, and took him to social functions. While the relationship was not sexual, Ms. Burke’s assistance allowed Dr. Griffin a great deal of autonomy and freedom.

Dr. Griffin’s children were worried about a provision Dr. Griffin had made for Ms. Burke in his will. Fearing the loss of their inheritance, and the intentions of Ms. Burke, the children asked the Probate Court to appoint a guardian and conservator for Dr. Griffin. The children also sought to force their father from his home into an assisted living center where he would receive personal and health care services without Ms. Burke’s presence and influence.

Despite Dr. Griffin’s age, he was mentally sharp and wanted to remain in his home. While Dr. Griffin wanted to maintain a good relationship with his children, he also desired to retain the freedom and independence offered by his current living arrangements.

Our Approach

On Dr. Griffin’s behalf, Rhoades McKee vigorously opposed the children’s request to appoint a guardian and conservator. However, recognizing the importance Dr. Griffin placed on his relationship with his children, we offered mediation as a way to explore the interests of all parties and air all the concerns each party had about Dr. Griffin’s care. Ultimately, the parties reached a settlement that satisfied the children’s concerns while preserving Dr. Griffin’s desire to live independently. This result granted peace of mind to the children while allowing Dr. Griffin to continue to live in his condominium and pursue an active social life.

The Result

Our legal efforts resulted in the relationships being preserved without forgoing the personal interests each party had in the case. Dr. Griffin was very pleased with the result and incredibly thankful that he had retained his good relationship with his children. Furthermore, after Dr. Griffin had passed away, one of his daughters called to thank the attorneys who assisted Dr. Griffin for how the case had been handled. The daughter stated that her relationship with her father had been better in the years following the settlement than it had been in the years leading up to the litigation.

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