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Guardianship, Trusts, and the Disabled: One Judge Speaks Out

July 18, 2013

The Village Voice recently spotlighted a ruling by former CUNY School of Law dean and now-retired Judge Kristin Booth Glen that changed the way banks and trustees manage trust funds for people who are disabled. In 2007, while overseeing a guardianship petition of Mark Holman, a severely autistic teen living in an institution, Judge Glen discovered the trustees of his trust fund had not spent any money on his medical care. At the time, there were no rules governing whether trustees were spending in the best interests of their clients. Glen ordered Harvey Platt, who petitioned for guardianship, and JP Morgan, the trustees of the fund, to visit Holman, meet with his caregivers, and determine how the money in Holman’s trust could be used to fulfill his needs.

In 2009, Glen appointed Platt as Holman’s guardian and ruled that all guardians appointed in Manhattan would have to report to the court annually. As Glen neared retirement in 2012, she followed up on Holman’s case and discovered only $3,525 of the $3.6 million in Holman’s trust had been spent on Holman. Glen ruled banks and other trustees must figure out what disabled people need and spend money to improve their lives. “There’s a lot of discussion going on in the banks about what to do,” says Glen. “They’re now being called to task. If you don’t know anything about it, hire somebody or don’t take the job.”

Judge Kristin Booth Glen

Judge Kristin Booth Glen

Kristin Booth Glen served as dean of the CUNY School of Law from 1995 to 2005 and returns as a professor this fall. She received her B.A. in political science from Stanford University and her J.D. from Columbia University Law School. She clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and spent 12 years in private practice and 15 years as a member of the judiciary, serving on the New York City Civil Court and the New York State Supreme Court.

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