CALEDONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — As Marian Fare’s final days drew near, she clung to her last wish.
“She said, ‘I want to be buried in Florida next to my husband’” recalled Jessica Fare.
“Even though she knew the money was gone, that was still what she wanted,” said Fare, who’s married to Mirian’s grandson.
But when Fare died in May at 96, her family, unable to afford transport for a traditional burial, made the difficult decision to have her cremated.
While her cremains will be buried next to her husband in a military cemetery in Florida, Tim and Jessica Fare know it’s not what their grandparents envisioned.
The Fares think Marian still had faith in Tim’s sister, Sarah DeVries.
“I think she thought Sarah was in control up to the final moment that she passed,” said Jessica.
“She thought Sarah would step in and do the right thing and make sure the burial was taken care of.”
But that didn’t happen.
In May, the same month Marian Fare died, Kent County prosecutors charged Sarah DeVries with embezzling $100,000 from a vulnerable adult – Marian Fare.
DeVries, however, has not been arrested because she’s living in Costa Rica.
She moved her family there – including Marian Fare – in 2012.
It wasn’t until 2016, when Marian required too much care that DeVries sent her back to West Michigan where Faire lived out her days in a nursing home.
“I love my grandmother, Marian Fare, very much,” wrote DeVries in an email to Kent County Probate Court in 2018.
“She is a very special and important part of our family. I spent time with her almost every day for seven years, and I did my best to fulfill all her wishes…. At no time did I personally gain anything financial from this experience.”
But Tim Fare said there were immediate red flags when DeVries gained Power of Attorney and moved Mirian into her West Michigan home in 2010.
“Grandma bought (DeVries’) home out of foreclosure so that threw up some red flags. Then, we found a number of houses that were in my Grandma’s name,” recalled Tim.
“I confronted Sarah about it, and she said it was to invest Grandma’s money. But the money was already invested. There was no need to take it out.”
Tim estimated Marian Fare and her husband had $750,000 in liquid assets when DeVries became Power of Attorney.
Fare said DeVries sold Marian’s home in Stanton and began purchasing motorcycles, boats and cars.
“Living the dream life with no real evident way of funding it,” recalled Tim.
In Costa Rica, Fare said DeVries bought a million dollar home.
“She was throwing over the top yoga retreat parties. A European vacation for the family.”
In 2010, Tim and Jessica Fare went to Probate Court with their concerns.
But a court-appointed Guardian ad litem determined that – at the time – Marian was of sound mind with the mental capacity to make her own financial decisions.
It wasn’t until 2018 that the court determined Marian Fare was no longer capable of managing her affairs.
By that time, the Fares said the money was gone.
“The difference between 2010 and 2018 was that her mental stability had diminished,” said Jessica Fare.
“That’s where it’s frustrating with that all or nothing because you think about a victim living with a victimizer”
Tim and Jessica Fare said Marian did not want to speak out against her granddaughter.
“I don’t think my grandma wanted to admit that she was being taken advantage of because she was living with them. They were taking care of her.”
In 2018, when Adult Protective Service finally stepped in, a caseworker confirmed Marian’s unwillingness to complain about Sarah DeVries.
“When talking (to Marian Fare) it became clear that she knows her granddaughter has taken advantage of her, but she loves her and would prefer that she not be prosecuted,” wrote an investigator with Adult Protective Services.
In July 2018, APS petitioned the court and obtained a public guardian for Marian Fare.
“It is my belief that Mrs. Fare’s granddaughter, Sarah DeVries, has financially exploited her,” wrote the APS investigator.
“Sarah DeVries and her husband shared bank accounts and those accounts have had transfers from Mrs. Fare’s funds into their accounts. Sarah and Ed DeVries have been uncooperative throughout my investigation.”
Tim and Jessica Fare just wish the state had stepped in when they first came forward with their concerns in 2010.
“We were at a loss to find anybody to help us,” recalled Tim.
“There was nobody in any type of state-run agency to step in… When we did reach out for assistance, they said, ‘well she’s mentally of sound mind and she’s okay with these decisions so we’re out of here.”
On Thursday, Tim and Jessica attended a “listening tour” at Kent County Probate Court to share their frustration over the system.
The event, organized by Michigan’s Attorney General, was held to gain input from seniors citizens and those who advocate for them.
AG Dana Nessel has convened an Elder Abuse Task Force to initiate change to better protect Michigan’s growing elderly population.
Nessel estimates there are 73,000 cases of abuse, neglect or exploitation of vulnerable adults yearly in the state.
The task force has already identified nine initiatives and is working with lawmakers on legislation to address system shortcomings.
The Fares wonder – if the task force were in place eight years – maybe things would have been different.
“It’s horrible not be able to grant someone their last wish,” said Jessica, referring to Marian Fare’s desire for a traditional burial.
“It’s very sad because my grandma and grandpa saved so long for this exact moment. They didn’t want there to be a burden on anyone else,” said Tim.
On Saturday afternoon, Edward DeVries, Sarah’s husband emailed 24 Hour News 8 telling a much different story.
He claims Tim and Jessica didn’t know Marian.
“They didn’t know where she was born or what she did. They only came to visit after she returned to Michigan,” Edward DeVries wrote.
He says Marian had 24-hour care in her rented home in Costa Rica, which was a huge expense. He also states Marian never wanted a customary funeral and she insisted on being cremated and having her ashes sprinkled in Costa Rica.
“They never knew her. They had a no-contact filed, so we could no longer see her. She tried everything she could to try and convince the judge to change that. Tim and Jessica isolated her from her family (Sarah and I),” he wrote.
“With that no-contact order. The court took her trust account. She wanted to stay in Costa Rica. But she was to the point she needed access to a great hospital. “