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124: Beach Boys Founder Brian Wilson Suffering from Dementia as Reps Seek Conservatorship

When you think of the Beach Boys, what comes to mind? We’re betting it’s not a complicated conservatorship case. Unfortunately, that’s what’s happening with the Beach Boys Founder, Brian Wilson. Mr. Wilson’s long-time wife had been his healthcare directive, but with her recent passing, it was discovered that no one was ever named as a backup. Now, the question is not only who will pick up her role as Mr. Wilson’s healthcare directive, but how. With Brian Wilson being considered unable to make these decisions for himself due to dementia, the solution is not a simple one. Tune in to learn more about the conservator process and how to avoid these complications yourself.

Time-stamped Show Notes:

0:00 Introduction

2:07 To start, Madison gives us an overview of the case with Brian Wilson, who now has to file for conservatorship because he never named a backup healthcare directive.

3:47 Now, we dive deeper into the more complex details of Mr. Wilson’s situation and the possibilities we see with the petition process.

5:26 Unfortunately, these issues are not new for Mr. Wilson, who seemed to have been taken advantage of in the past.

06:08 Here’s the big takeaway from this episode: Name backups on your estate planning documents. You need options!


Madison, good morning. Share with me today – what is your favorite Beach Boys song? I’m a big fan of “Help Me Rhonda.” “Help Me Rhonda” – That’s a good one. I like that one too. So I’m going to tell you this: That might actually be one of my favorites, too. But the one that leaps to mind for me when I ask myself what’s my favorite song is “Barbara Ann,” which is kind of similar to “Help Me Ronda” in that it’s that, you know, bouncy kind of upbeat thing and, it’s not necessarily my favorite, but it’s so ingrained in my brain. When I was in high school, there was a pompom squad that was having tryouts, and that was the song that they had to do their canned routine to in the tryouts. And so I heard that over and over and over every day after school as they were practicing getting ready for their tryouts. So it’s just maybe the most familiar Beach Boys song. I love it. There’s pet sounds, right? So there’s like 40 people in the recording studio when they’re recording that song. And there are little like phrases that I say that are from that song in the background. And I don’t think my husband knows where I get that from. It’s just like certain things that I just repeat that are just from whoever’s yelling things in the background of that song.

Okay, that’s good. Welcome everyone. This is Absolute Trust Talk. I’m Kirsten Howe here with Madison Gunn, and you might’ve guessed that we’re about to talk about Brian Wilson and his recent petition to be conserved. And we are estate planners. Some estate planners do conservatorships, we do not. But these cases keep rolling out that touch on estate planning, and they help illustrate some really important points. So we are going to talk about this case. If you are a follower of our show, you know that our last recording about this topic was the conservatorship petition filed by Jay Leno to gain conservatorship over his wife, Mavis. And these two cases are similar. Madison, you wanna talk about Brian Wilson’s case?

Yeah, so in Brian Wilson’s case, his long-time wife just passed away, and she had been his healthcare agent under his power of attorney for health care or health care directive, and there was no backup named. He had no successor agent named, so he essentially has no advanced health care directive. So they’re filing a conservatorship in order to get another health care directive put into place.

Okay, so similar to Jay Leno’s case, in Jay Leno’s case, there’s no estate plan of any kind. There’s no will, no trust, nothing. And he is filing a conservatorship petition in order to be able to create an estate plan, which presumably would include all of those things for his wife. And in Brian Wilson’s case, as far as we can tell, he has everything in place. It’s just that his healthcare directive is effectively terminated because he didn’t name enough backups. He didn’t name any backups. He only named his wife on his health care directive. So they’re not filing for conservatorships like in the Britney Spears world to just have this ongoing conservatorship, they’re doing it for a very specific purpose to establish an estate plan or a component of an estate plan.

Right, okay, and there are two people who are together asking to be made his conservator and they both are people who have had a long-standing business relationship with Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson is actually consenting to this petition, which could be important. The judge has to look at everything. What do you think the judge is going to be thinking about in deciding whether to grant this petition?

Yeah, I think it’s interesting. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue necessarily in granting the petition. I think the issue is going to be more so in terminating it. You know, as long as nobody objects, and it sounds like from the petition, he and his several children all agree. It’s definitely interesting that the children are not involved, but he does have a blended family, you know, so we won’t purport to know what’s happened behind closed doors, especially as a celebrity, you know, and his history of mental illness, how that has worked. But the fact that he has, you know, gone through a conservatorship before, had a history of being surrounded by the wrong people or being under the control of the wrong people. It’ll be interesting to know if the court will eventually terminate its own oversight. Mm-hmm.

Yeah, so that’s bringing up, you know, long ago history, but he has had a long struggle. There was a point at which he was taken advantage of by again someone who was in his close inner circle as a professional, and that all resulted in a conservatorship over him or perhaps his finances – I don’t know the exact history, that was quite a while ago. And then he got married, and things seemed to go a lot better for him. And so he’s in this situation now because his wife passed away, and that’s very unfortunate.

But the lesson from our perspective – I’ll just I’ll let you deliver that – to have options on your estate planning documents. You have a health care directive. Have more than just your spouse named as, you know, your health care agent. Name a couple of backup options. Yeah, this that’s the thing I always say is, you know, you’re probably going to name your spouse and that’s fine. You’ve got to have at least one backup. That’s what I always say – at least one backup. You can have as many backups as you want. He’s got five or seven children. He could have put them all on there as backups. Maybe that’s not a good choice in his family, we don’t know. But he’s got a generation below him. He knows somebody. Yeah, he must know somebody.

And so, if he had an attorney create all of his existing state plan, including a health care directive, for that attorney to update his health care directive or to add an extra backup on there is almost nothing. It’s almost no work. It’s almost no expense for Brian. This could have easily been taken care of. And now, instead, they’re doing a conservatorship. There will be a substitute judgment petition within the conservatorship, many thousands of dollars to get this very simple thing taken care of that he really could have taken care of in the first go-round when he created the healthcare directive.

Yeah, that is such a simple, simple fix. I mean, and he has a trust that already has, you know, the same people named as trustees. So it’s not even a financial issue. It’s just medical decisions. And that could have easily been taken care of. So easily. Yeah. Okay, we hate to see it, but it is a learning opportunity for our audience. We hope you get it. Thank you for joining us, and we look forward to connecting with you next time.

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