(WXYZ) — More than $123,000. That’s what a local family says a guardianship cost their elderly mother for three months of care. It was a huge chunk of her life savings.
It’s the same guardianship company that 7 Investigator Heather Catallo exposed back in May when they were accused of cutting off family contact with an elderly couple.
The family in this case originally didn’t want to talk to us on camera, but when they saw the fees that Caring Hearts Michigan is asking a judge to approve – they agreed to speak out.
Piera Franklin is 90 years young and still loves working in her yard.
After she had some health issues in February, Macomb County Probate Judge Kathryn George appointed Caring Hearts Michigan Inc. as Piera’s temporary guardian and conservator. That means Caring Hearts had total legal control of Piera. As her conservator, they also had total control of her money.
Caring Hearts Michigan Inc. is owned by Cathy Kirk. Court records show, Kirk used her husband’s law firm to bill the estate. Kirk also used one of her companies, Executive Care, to provide 24/7 in-home care for Piera.
Please note: Caring Hearts Homecare of Southfield is not affiliated in any way with Cathy Kirk’s Caring Hearts Michigan Inc.
Piera said that she didn’t need that. She cooks, cleans, washes her clothes and didn’t want that kind of 24/7 help.
In May, the 7 Investigators were in the courtroom when the judge took Caring Hearts off the case and granted guardianship and conservatorship of Piera to her son , John. But the Franklin family was stunned when they recently got the final accounting from Caring Hearts.
For only 91 days of care, Caring Hearts wants the court to approve:
- $10,5224.37 for guardianship services
- $19,369.90 in legal fees for Cathy Kirk’s husband’s law firm
- $86,304 for home care charged by Executive Car
- Caring Hearts Michigan backs out of disputed guardianship case in wake of 7 Action News report
- Michigan AG opens investigation into Macomb Co. probate case following 7 Action News report
“Is more than $86,000 for 91 days of care reasonable,” asked 7 Investigator Heather Catallo.
“Not in my opinion,” said John Perrin, an attorney hired by Piera’s son, John Franklin. “Based on the invoices themselves, there’s clearly overcharges here.”
“Do you feel like they earned that money?” Catallo asked Piera.
“No! No way no way! Because they didn’t do anything. No help for me, no bath, nothing, nothing,” Piera responded. “I make my own bed. I clean up the house. I did everything! Was nothing done. They sit there with their book and watching TV. That’s it!”
- Why did a Macomb Co. judge put strangers in charge of an elderly couple instead of family?
- Family awarded guardianship of Macomb Co. couple after 7 Action News Investigation
This is 90-year-old Piera Franklin talking about the caregivers from Caring Hearts MI Inc. On @wxyzdetroit at 6, I’ll show you why her family is objecting to $123k in legal, guardianship, & care fees for 91 days. @MIAttyGen @MISupremeCourt #probate pic.twitter.com/q2ZPzmkXyh— Heather Catallo WXYZ (@HeatherCatallo) August 13, 2019
Piera said she did like some of the home aides, but she says one caregiver had a fight with her boyfriend in the driveway of Piera’s home. She said it made her feel scared, like she did during the war in her childhood in Italy.
“I was raised in the war time, and I remember when the bombs coming, I would get stomach problem, and I felt the same anxiety in my stomach,” said Piera.
In court filings, Perrin argues Caring Hearts Michigan Inc. “engaged in serious conflicts of interest that resulted in waste and dissipation of Ms. Franklin’s savings.”
“There’s one particular occasion where I see 48 hours billed for one caregiver in a single day,” Perrin said. “The cumulative time in that single day wound up being almost $2,500.”
Other fees include:
- Hours of overtime for what Perrin says are non-skilled caregivers charging above-market rates of $45 per hour;
- $1,760.50 to change the locks on Piera’s home (family members say they don’t know why the locks needed to be changed);
- $1,129.81 for correspondence with banks and closing Piera’s accounts so they could be moved to First State Bank where Cathy Kirk’s husband, Robert, is a board member.
Now, Piera has less expensive caregivers for fewer hours in the day. She says now she is worried about how much money she was charged by caring hearts.
“I worked hard to save, 10 hours a day,” said the mother of five.
The 7 Investigators spoke with the Michigan Attorney General’s Office and they say their financial crimes unit is aware of this case, but they can’t confirm or deny if they are investigating.
The Attorney General is investigating a different probate case first exposed by the 7 Investigators that also involves Caring Hearts Michigan Inc.
Lawyers for Caring Hearts Michigan Inc. deny any wrongdoing, and they have told the court they will review some of the billings. They say the relationship between Kirk’s companies while serving Piera did not violate any law or court rule.
Kemp Klein Attorney Ed Nahhat sent the 7 Investigators this statement late Tuesday:
“Caring Hearts disclosed in writing to Court Administrator John Brennan on April 4, 2018, its common ownership of Executive Care. This was many months before the Court’s "related persons" policy was issued. The policy assures disclosure upon the annual account.
In these cases, all interested persons, and the court, had disclosure; they knew that the companies had common ownership as intended by the policy.
Neither Caring Hearts nor Executive Care did anything wrong when doing what the court ordered them to do: care for someone according to their needs and preferences. Mrs. Franklin was very grateful to Caring Hearts, as she wanted her care to be at home, extensive and high quality, and she wanted only certain persons to take care of her. In fact our Executive Care’s service was so valued that her son rehired them at one point, and his mother specifically asked for their employees to continue serving her, even after Caring Hearts was replaced. Simply put, she liked her care at home, and that is always more expensive.
Caring Hearts and Executive Care are ready and willing to be examined for all that they did and the fees they charged. That’s what trials are for.
It’s about money.
While family are entitled to challenge fees, we fear Mrs. Franklin is now being scripted to create an inaccurate public image of Caring Hearts. It’s sad to see a good company get publicly attacked when the family already has a court of law available to them, where both parties have a fair chance to present their case."
If you have a story for Heather Catallo please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 248-827-4473.