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Elder Law

Court Battle Over Peter Falk is Latest High-Profile Case Concerning Dementia

Posted May 28, 2009 12:46 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A beloved actor perhaps best known for hiding his keen detective skills under a bumbling police persona in the Columbo television series is now reportedly more than absent-minded in real life.

The daughter and wife of 81-year-old Peter Falk are battling in court for control of his affairs, in one of several high-profile cases that have put the issue of dementia and how best to deal with the financial concerns it can create in the news lately.

She and her stepmother have not gotten along well for decades, Catherine Falk testified yesterday in California, and she is seeking to be appointed her father's conservator, she says, because her stepmother hasn't let her contact her father since he had hip-replacement surgery last year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

On the other side, an attorney for Shera Denise Falk, who has been married to the actor for more than 30 years, questioned Catherine Falk's financial motives, the newspaper reports.

Probate Judge Aviva Bobb indicated she is likely to side with Falk's wife in the Los Angeles Superior Court case, but also wants to see measures taken to permit his daughter to have contact with him.

The ongoing trial in New York of deceased socialite Brooke Astor's 85-year-old son and her lawyer for allegedly siphoning some $60 million from her estate has also put dementia front and center, notes Jane Bryant Quinn in a Bloomberg financial advice column.

She suggests that children keep a wary eye on situations that may suggest a power of attorney was forged or is being misused, and says advisors to the elderly may have to negotiate a difficult path between following a client's instructions yet being alert for signs that he or she is no longer competent to make decisions. The column offers a number of specific suggestions for averting potential trouble for all concerned, and says advance planning is crucial.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Did Son & NY Lawyer ‘Steal’ $60M from Socialite Brooke Astor’s Estate?"

ABAJournal.com: "McDermott Partner Testifies on Brooke Astor’s Embarrassment "

ABAJournal.com: "Ex-S&C Lawyer Tells of Astor’s Alzheimer’s Diagnosis, Later Painting Sale"

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