Florida Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

With No Health Agent Backup, Guardianship Looms For Beach Boys Creative Genius

Brian Wilson was the driving force behind the Beach Boys, the band that popularized surf music in the 1960s. The band created some of our most iconic pop songs: Little Surfer Girl, Surfin’ USA, California Girls, Good Vibrations, I Get Around, Help Me Rhonda, and dozens more. The group had 37 songs reach the U.S. Top 40, the most of any American band.

Now, at age 81, it appears Wilson is going to be the subject of a conservatorship (similar to a guardianship in Florida). The singer-songwriter has been diagnosed with dementia. He also has a history of substance abuse and has been struggling with mental health problems for decades. As recently as 2015, in an interview with Salon, he said: “I have voices in my head. Mostly it’s derogatory. Some of it’s cheerful. Most of it isn’t.”

According to Wilson, his wife Melinda was his “savior.” Married in 1995, in recent years she was his caregiver, attending to all his daily needs. She was Wilson’s agent under his health care power of attorney, but he never named a backup to her. So when she passed away on January 30, no one else had the legal authority to coordinate his health care and personal care.

Recognizing that Wilson was incapable of tending to his own needs, Wilson’s seven children and doctors stepped in shortly after Melinda died. On February 14 they filed a petition for conservatorship with the California Superior Court.  It stated: “A conservator of the person needs to be appointed for Mr. Wilson due to Mrs. Wilson’s passing and the lack of successor agent named in his advance healthcare directive.”  The filing notes that Wilson is “unable to properly provide for his own personal needs for physical health, food, clothing, or shelter…” The conservators (guardians) will manage the care plan for his neurocognitive disorder. Wilson is currently taking Aricept to slow the progress of his dementia, but he is not capable of self-administering medication.

The proposed conservators are two of Wilson’s longtime associates: publicist Jean Sievers and business manager LeeAnn Hard. The conservatorship that is being requested is a conservatorship of the person, not of his finances. Wilson has an existing durable power of attorney that gives Hard the authority to manage his finances. He also has a trust with her as trustee.

On Wilson’s website, the family explains why they filed for conservatorship: “This decision was made to ensure that there will be no extreme changes to the household and Brian and the children living at home will be taken care of and remain in the home where they are cared for by Gloria Ramos and the wonderful team at the house who have been in place for many years helping take care of the family. Brian will be able to enjoy all of his family and friends and continue to work on current projects as well as participate in any activities he chooses.” (Gloria Ramos is the Wilson family’s longtime housekeeper.)

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for April 26.

Wilson’s situation demonstrates the importance of making sure you name back-ups to all the individuals you name to manage your health decisions, and all other decisions, too. We frequently run into situations where the sole agent or fiduciary for an incapacitated person has him/herself become incapacitated or passed away, leaving no one authorized to step into that role. Keep your documents updated! Once you no longer have capacity, a guardianship may be necessary to appoint decision-makers for you. The Karp Law Firm’s attorneys can help you with these important plans. Call 561-625-1100.