Calling all Trekkies and fans of great old school television shows. Actress Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed one of our most beloved characters, Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek, reportedly has been diagnosed with dementia and has been conserved in Los Angeles County. Her son, Kyle Johnson, filed papers to place his mother under a conservatorship in order to manage her financial affairs. Mr. Johnson has requested that four fiduciaries co-manage Ms. Nichol’s estate. Interestingly, Ms. Nichols’ is still extremely active in Hollywood with multiple projects slated to release later this year. However, Mr. Johnson states that his mother has severe short-term memory loss and is susceptible to undue influence.
In his court filing, Mr. Johnson claims that $259,000 is missing from his mother’s accounts and that her manager transferred one of her properties into his own name. If true, these allegations could amount to elder abuse and Ms. Nichols’ representatives would have a claim against her now former manager. Ms. Nichols’ estate is estimated to be worth in excess of $2 million.
Elder abuse claims often drive the need for a conservatorship. Elder abuse is defined by the CDC as an intentional act or failure to act by a trusted person who causes harm or a risk of harm to an elderly person. When elder abuse is suspected or someone is particularly susceptible to undue influence (usually due to dementia or other neurological impairment), a conservatorship is established to protect both the assets and well-being of the conservatee (conservatee is the person who is under conservatorship).
A conservatorship entails daily management of the conservatee’s affairs – either personal or financial or both – by the conservator. A conservatorship of the person entails management of daily living activities and medical care for the conservatee. A conservatorship of the estate entails management of all financial assets. The entire conservatorship process is overseen by the probate court and requires regular accountings that detail every penny (yes, I mean that literally) spent from the conservatee’s assets as well as regular detailed updates on the conservatee’s physical and mental well-being. Establishing a conservatorship is a detailed, multi-step legal process that has the benefit of being both lengthy and expensive. (In the vast majority of cases, an attorney needs to be involved.) In other words, it’s never a simple option to protect your loved one but sometimes it’s what’s needed if abuse is suspected.
So, when the captain has abandoned the ship or is unable to direct the crew, then you may need to ‘take the con’ and establish a conservatorship for your loved one and prevent a con. With the right conservator and the right attorney the conservatee can live long and prosper!