living trust lawyer palos verdes  | California Estate Planning Lawyer

Brian Wilson, the creative genius behind the iconic American rock band from the 60’s (formed in Hawthorne, California!), has unfortunately been placed under a court-ordered conservatorship.  Conservatorships, often known as guardianships in other states, are appointed by a judge who has determined that an individual is not capable of caring for themselves and/or their finances. 

The conservatorship was appointed after it was determined by the court that Wilson, a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Member, is suffering from dementia and is experiencing considerable decline from the disorder.  Wilson’s late wife, Melinda Ledbetter Wilson, who passed away on January 30, previously handled most of his affairs.  This difficult decision to place Wilson under court-ordered conservatorship was made after his seven children, caregiver and doctors all were consulted before the petition was filed back in February.  It was finally determined by the court that his publicist, Jean Sievers, will act as conservator with respect to his personal healthcare and living decisions, while his finances will continue to be managed by Lee Ann Hard, who serves as Trustee of Wilson’s Living Trust. 

How This Could Have Been Avoided 

This court conservatorship proceeding no doubt cost a good deal of attorney fees, as well as stress and unwanted publicity for the family, and delays in his conservator stepping in to act. While this situation seems to have worked out in Wilson’s favor, as those in his inner circle were all in agreement about the need for someone to assist him, the decision as to who would be in charge was ultimately court-determined, which may or may not have been the same Wilson would have made when he had full capacity to do so.  Wilson had previously named his late wife as his healthcare agent, but failed to name a backup in the event that she had passed away or was no longer able to act.  He may have preferred that one or more of his children handle his personal and healthcare matters. 

Wilson’s situation demonstrates the importance of making sure to name backup or alternates to the individual you name to manage both your healthcare decisions, as well as your finances. Having helped administer over 4,000 trusts and estates when someone has become incapacitated or passed away, we have seen how this “vacancy” situation can occur, where there is no one authorized to step into those critical roles. This is why it is imperative that you keep your estate plan properly up-to-date with your wishes, so that you can avoid winding up in court and possibly having individuals you would not have otherwise chosen in charge of your healthcare or financial decisions.  

If you live in California and have an estate plan, you may wish to schedule a free review checkup meeting with an attorney in our office.  Contact us at 1-800-756-5596 to schedule your meeting.  We highly recommend you attend one of our upcoming seminars prior to the free meeting, in order to be better prepared and get the most out of it. 

Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.
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