Stiehl restores elderly woman’s desire to live independently, dissolving guardianship move by daughter

By Record News | Sep 4, 2018

BELLEVILLE – Newly appointed St. Clair County Circuit Judge William Stiehl ruled that Margaret Ashmann, 85, whose daughter won approval from two previous judges to act as her guardian, should return to her home in Fairview Heights and run her own life. 

Stiehl signed an order on Sept. 4, restoring freedom to Ashmann after 39 days at an assisted living facility, Cedarhurst in Collinsville.

After a hearing on Tuesday, Ashmann said, “It’s wonderful to know I can go home and do my own thing.”

She said she was proud of her children, but that the effort to obtain guardianship over her was “so uncalled for.”

“This probably cost me a few years off my life,” she said. “I cried for days.” 

Daughter Kathleen Wilshire petitioned for guardianship on July 27, swearing her mother was incapable of managing her estate and person. 

Her lawyer, former chief judge John Baricevic, attached a physician’s affidavit. 

Associate Judge Janet Kievlan signed a temporary order for Wilshire on July 27. 

Ashmann retained Belleville attorney Margaret Lowery, who moved to dissolve the order on Aug. 6. 

Lowery wrote that for an appointment with Ashmann’s physician, her daughter intentionally removed her hearing aids. 

Lowery wrote that Ashmann would have been unable to respond properly to the physician’s questions. 

She wrote that the physician’s affidavit contained an inaccurate diagnosis, no foundation basis, “and perhaps tainted facts.”

But a physician who examined her at Cedarhurst, rendered an opinion that she wasn’t under disability, Lowery argued. 

At a hearing before Associate Judge Heinz Rudolf on Aug. 14, guardian ad litem Michael Rousseau said he just met Ashmann for the first time. 

“She’s very with it, very sharp,” Rousseau said. 

He said he asked questions and she answered them all.

“She wasn’t confused,” he said. 

Lowery said Ashmann “worked all her life and doesn’t have any money, with a million dollars in the bank.” 

Baricevic objected to giving her access to money. 

Lowery told Rudolf, “It’s not his money. It’s her money.” 

Rudolf spoke to Ashmann throughout the hearing, and she responded. 

Yet he denied her motion and sent her back to Cedarhurst. 

He ordered an evaluation by William Newman of St. Louis University. 

He said Stiehl would hold the next hearing. 

 A day later, Baricevic moved for reconsideration.

“Dr. Newman bills at $600 an hour and demands a $5,000 retainer,” Baricevic wrote.

The temporary guardian did not agree to an expert of this nature.” 

He called it a waste of the ward’s assets. 

On Aug. 29, Lowery wrote that Wilshire’s change of heart occurred because she was advised she would have to meet Newman regarding her suitability as guardian. 

She wrote that Wilshire “is not of sound mind having suffered from a somatoform disorder, a psychiatric illness, for the past decade.” 

“Margaret Ashmann is being held hostage at Cedarhurst under an emergency order when no emergency has ever been pleaded,” Lowery wrote. 

Stiehl declared Ashmann to be a competent person not under disability. He ordered Wilshire to turn over all of Ashmann's property by 9 a.m. on Sept. 5, and called for Wilshire to provide a final accounting by Oct. 2.

“Margaret B. Ashmann is hereby restored effective immediately to all powers of a citizen of the United States as if the Guardianship had never existed to include restoration of her driving privileges and voting privileges,” Stiehl wrote.

He terminated and dissolved the guardianship, removing Wilshire from having any power to conduct business on behalf of Ashmann.

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