The Ruling That Could Change Everything For Disabled People With Million-Dollar Trusts

A pissed-off judge, a $3 million inheritance, and a neglected autistic man

This wasn't just about Mark: It was a "clarion call" for all special-needs trustees, she wrote. "Courts will intervene not only when the trustee behaves recklessly, but also when the trustee fails to exercise judgment altogether."

Glen's decision sent ripples through the banking industry and disability rights community.

"There's a lot of discussion going on in the banks about what to do," says Glen, who hopes they will now educate trust officers or contract outside professionals. "They're now being called to task. If you don't know anything about it, hire somebody or don't take the job."

Mark Holman, millionaire orphan
Courtesy Sharon Awad
Mark Holman, millionaire orphan
Judge Kristen Booth Glen picked a fight with the banks.
plsny.org
Judge Kristen Booth Glen picked a fight with the banks.

Glen's decision doesn't fix gaps in oversight, but it gives advocates and judges around the country something to point to when assessing what trustees must do.

"It's not going to be pretty, because it creates an affirmative obligation on [banks] to actually do something," says Bernard Krooks, who chairs the special-needs practice at the law firm Littman Krooks. "Typically, they just invest the money and try to obtain a decent return."

In her opinion, Glen demanded that JP Morgan and Platt provide an updated accounting of Mark's trust. She also recommended that both have their commissions denied or reduced.

"This is very upsetting to me," Platt says. Now 81, he sounds exhausted when he speaks of Mark's case from his Upper East Side office.

"I never gave her any reason to have such a harsh opinion," he says. "It's not pleasant, especially with the career that I've had, and I'm going to make sure that I continue to do what I'm doing. I will never, ever let anyone criticize me."

His delays in visiting Mark and filing paperwork were largely due to health problems, he says. Platt cared for his ill daughter, who died in 2007, and his wife, who was sick for seven years before she died in 2012. He, in turn, has been treated for leukemia and prostate cancer.

"I don't disagree with [Glen] that more trustees should become more proactive in what they're spending, but I think the forum is wrong," Platt says. "All she's doing is requiring legal fees to be paid, and I think that she's gone too far."

In two affidavits Platt filed earlier this year, he said that Glen and Staver took undue credit for improving Mark's condition. "While Ward's improvement or progress was and is 'heartwarming' and a miracle, according to the staff at Anderson, this was based upon Ward's maturing through adolescence rather than any changes in 'medical' treatment," he wrote. "While we credit Judge Glen for her concern and causing the appointment of a social worker, the facts show Ward's improvement was caused by a higher power."

In addition, Platt argued, "If there be fault in the delayed reevaluation and possible changed treatment, it must be shared by society."

In other words, Anderson or even the court may have been at fault for insufficient treatment prior to his appointment as guardian.

Nearly five months into her retirement, Glen sits at the neighborhood diner where she orders "the usual": bacon, scrambled eggs, and sliced tomatoes. She's now a professor at the City University of New York School of Law, where she was once dean, and has spent the last few months speaking about Mark's case and others at events around the country.

She dismisses the idea that Mark improved simply because he grew older. "Had he not gotten these interventions, he would not be in that situation.

"When you think about an institution that gets the shit payments they get from Medicaid, they do their best," she says. "But they can't do one-on-one. They can't carefully teach somebody to use a communicative device. They can't take people out to restaurants. The more somebody interacts with the community, the more they're allowed to exercise their choice, the more they learn how to make decisions."

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