Burns & Levinson partner Robert J. O'Regan won a major appellate victory as the conservator for Alice Migell whose nearly $5 million estate was pilfered by one of her sons. The November 2, 2016 decision by the Massachusetts Appeals Court upheld judgments from Middlesex Probate and Family Court, that returned real estate and approximate sale proceeds that the son kept after selling real estate from a trust. The decision also upheld criminal contempt convictions against the son and his wife, Andrew and Kai Sun Migell, for their transferring assets to put them out of reach to satisfy what was owed. The Appeals Court will also require the son and his wife to pay O'Regan's legal fees.
The original lawsuit was filed in 2009 after O'Regan was appointed as Alice Migell's guardian. O'Regan recovered real estate valued in excess of $2 million in addition to approximately $400,000 that Andrew Migell kept from selling the trust’s real estate. The returned property included a vacation home in Hull, a house in Wayland, and rental property. An investigation revealed, and an earlier judgment against them determined that Andrew and Kai Sun Migell worked to take for themselves virtually all of the assets that Mrs. Migell had, either in her own name or as her inheritance following the death of her husband to whom she had been married for over 40 years.
The Probate and Family Court ruled in 2013 that Andrew and Kai Sun Migell had orchestrated a "continuous, willful campaign of fraudulent, obstructionist behavior designed to separate Mrs. Migell from her assets which should have been available to cover the costs of her 24-hour care necessary for the preservation of her mental and physical well-being."
In 2013, the Probate and Family Court also ordered Andrew and Kai Sun Migell to pay $512,680 in attorneys' costs that Mrs. Migell incurred to recover her own property and to defend against their attempts to impoverish her after they "set out on a ruthless campaign to totally and utterly deprive his elderly, ailing and recently widowed mother of her entire estate." The Appeals Court had upheld this decision in 2014.
"This was one of the worst cases of elder abuse that I have seen in over 30 years of practicing law. Alice Migell was 83 years old and suffering from dementia when we went to trial to regain control of the assets she needs to live the rest of her time with dignity and comfort," said O'Regan. "I feel fortunate to have been able to serve the Court and to help Mrs. Migell recover her funds and property. I hope this case sends a message that exploitation of the elderly and infirm will not be tolerated. Anyone who takes advantage of the most vulnerable people in society should held accountable for the harm they cause. That is what this Appeals Court decision stands for."