Jay Leno, former host of The Tonight Show, has filed a petition for conservatorship in California (similar to Florida guardianship) over his wife’s estate. Leno, 73 and his wife, Mavis, 77, met at the Comedy Club in the late 1970s. Atypically for Hollywood, the couple has been married for 43 years. They have no children. Mavis, a board member of the Feminist Majority Foundation, has been a longtime defender of women’s rights.
Now, Mavis is suffering from dementia. According to the petition Leno filed in Los Angeles on January 26, she has problems with “memory, comprehension/processing, delusional ideation” and takes medication for dementia, depression and anxiety.
Leno is seeking a conservatorship that will permit him to create an estate plan for his wife, who is no longer competent to create one for herself. According to the petition, Mavis “has been progressively losing capacity and orientation to space and time for several years” and is “incapable of executing the estate plan.” We do not know if she has an existing estate plan, executed while she still had capacity. If so, it is apparently no longer suitable for her circumstances. Or she may not have had a plan of any type – a situation not unheard of, even for celebrities.
Specifically, Leno wants to create a trust to hold the couple’s joint assets. The trust’s assets and terms will be structured in order to provide for Mavis’ future care should she outlive him. Leno has managed all the couple’s assets and finances during their marriage. Leno also states that he wants to create a revocable trust and will to provide for Mavis’ brother, her only relative. A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for April 9.
The situation underscores how important it is to complete your estate planning in a timely way, while you are competent to do so, and to keep it updated as life’s circumstances change. A sound estate plan will allow you to avoid guardianship and protect your assets. It should include at the very least:
- A Durable Power of Attorney that names someone who can make your financial decisions if you are incapacitated, without the need to file for guardianship.
- A Health Care Surrogate authorizing someone to make your health care decisions in the event you cannot make them yourself.
- A Revocable Trust in which you name a co-trustee and successor trustee to manage your assets in the event of your incapacity and provide instructions regarding how your assets are to be distributed at death.
- A Last Will and Testament. This may be one that just sets forth your beneficiaries, or it could be a will that “pours over” to your trust.
Call The Karp Law Firm at 561-625-1100 for an appointment to set up your own estate plan – before it’s too late. We have offices in Palm Beach Gardens, Boynton Beach and Port St. Lucie.