State AG announces settlement of guardianship case involving guardian self-dealing

The Macomb County guardianship case that state Attorney General Dana Nessel intervened in on behalf of the people of the State of Michigan, has settled.

The private parties agreed that the financial aspects of the settlement are subject to a confidentiality agreement, while the injunctive aspects of the settlement, insisted on by the attorney general, are public record.

Caring Hearts Michigan Inc. and owner Catherine Kirk agree that the guardianship company will immediately cease operations and legally dissolve by the end of the year, according to Nessel.

In addition, Kirk and Caring Hearts Michigan employees are permanently barred from operating any other guardianship or conservatorship entity.

Caring Hearts Michigan was appointed by Macomb County Probate Court Judge Kathryn George as both guardian and conservator for Robert Lee Mitchell and Barbara Delbridge, despite a petition submitted by the daughter and stepdaughter of the couple.

Of significant concern to the attorney general was the web of connections between Caring Hearts Michigan, a guardian agency owned by Kirk, and Executive Care, a 24-hour in-home care company, also owned by Kirk, as well as a law firm — Kirk, Huth, Lange, and Badalamenti PLC — owned in part by Kirk’s husband.?

Caring Hearts Michigan hired Executive Care to provide in-home care for Mitchell and Delbridge, and hired the law firm to provide legal advice.

In about six months, the three entities billed nearly $400,000, almost 72 percent of that for Executive Care.

“It is incumbent on the courts to ensure that the state’s guardianship system is providing properly for the vulnerable and that the court-appointed guardians and conservators fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities to those in their custody,” Nessel said.

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