‘They take away everything’: Orlando man’s rights restored after 7 years under legal guardianship

ORLANDO, Fla. — Seven years ago, an Orlando man, who a court ruled couldn’t take care of himself, was placed under a legal guardianship.

He is now free after his fight to remove it.

An Orange County Circuit Court judge found no evidence of the guardian’s claims that Douglas Keegan’s mental capacity was lacking.

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“You miss people, living alone like a hermit,” Keegan said.

He’s lived alone in a hotel room for the past two and a half years.

“I used to have plans, but plans go to hell,” Keegan said.

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Seven years ago, a judge placed Keegan under a guardian’s care initiated by a family member’s allegations that the retired engineer was an alcoholic and his then-wife was exploiting him.

Next came a doctor’s diagnosis of early onset dementia from one in-home visit.

At age 54, all of his rights were stripped.

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“We want freedom, and under guardianship, you’re not free,” Keegan said. “They take away everything.”

Professional guardians and their attorneys sold his car, his condo and tapped into his retirement to collect more than $200,000 in fees.

Keegan was placed in memory care and later moved to the extended stay hotel with only a restricted debit card and a bike.

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“It’s very scary to think that this can happen in America,” attorney Leslie Ann Ferderigos said.

Last fall, Ferderigos got a call from Keegan for help.

“This whole case just shocked me,” Ferderigos said.

With the judge’s OK, she requested the first diagnostic screening of his mental capacity by a new doctor. It found no dementia existed.

“He actually got a perfect score, and he said he had full capacity and full ability to exercise all of his rights,” Ferderigos said.

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The Ninth Circuit Court judge agreed, citing “no evidence” that Keegan lacks the capacity to make his own decisions and care for himself.

The judge said the guardian must return what’s left of Keegan’s assets.

But what he’s already lost has taken a toll.

“I have no idea if I have any money left or not,” Keegan said.

He said he hopes telling his story helps fix a system that landed him where he is.

“There’s so much beauty in the world and that’s where my mind is, my mind is on the beauty,” he said.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.