by Attorney Philip Kavesh

Torrance trust lawyersJay Leno, the former host of The Tonight Show, filed a court petition in January of this year for conservatorship over his wife, Mavis’ estate and it was recently granted.  Mavis is suffering from dementia and, according to the petition filed by Leno, his wife has “"been progressively losing capacity and orientation to space and time for several years” and is currently taking medication to treat her dementia, as well as depression and anxiety.   

Apparently, prior to the January filing, Jay (age 73) and his wife (age 77) did not have an estate plan set up.  Since Mavis’ medical condition makes her incapable of either executing or setting up an estate plan, Leno will now be permitted to create an estate plan, including a Living Trust, for his wife and ensure the proper management, preservation, and distribution of their assets should something happen to either of them.  The couple has been married for 43 years and have no children.  While Leno has primarily managed the finances during their marriage, it is important that their estate plan properly name the individuals to step in should something now happen to Leno and to ensure that the right individuals inherit their sizeable estate upon their passing.

Fortunately, this was a quick and amicable outcome for Leno and his wife, mainly because they have no children and she has only one heir, her brother.  However, it is usually problematic for a court to oversee the setting up of an estate plan for an incompetent person, particularly if there are children or other heirs who may have differing claims or needs that may require management after the conservatee’s death.  This story is yet another reminder of the importance of getting an estate plan in place while you are still competent and of sound mind to make decisions for yourself.  And realize that, although the Lenos will finally get an estate plan in place, they had to go through a conservatorship (also known as guardianship in other states), that involves giving up control to the Probate Court, plus unnecessary legal expenses and unwanted publicity.  Being forced to deal with Probate Court is entirely avoidable with a properly drafted and maintained estate plan including a Living Trust. 

If you or someone you know needs to set up your estate plan (or if it’s been over 3 years since you/they last reviewed and updated your/their plan), attend one of our upcoming free seminars and schedule a consultation with an attorney.  Contact us today at 1-800-756-5596.

SOURCES: NBC News and LA Times

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