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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Reese Witherspoon seeks conservatorship of father

Film buffs in Minneapolis and St. Paul may be most familiar with Reese Witherspoon for her many starring roles in movies. But the actress recently took on a legal role in real life as she petitioned to be appointed her father's conservator. The actress joined with her mother to seek conservatorship over her father, who is believed to suffer from dementia.

The petition comes in the wake of the father's recent bigamous marriage to a younger woman. The actress alleges that the conservatorship is necessary to protect her father from misuse of funds by the unlawful second wife.

Conservatorship grants the petitioner legal authority to make financial decisions on behalf of a person suffering from incapacity. Individuals diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's disease often need a conservator to assist with financial tasks like paying bills. In some cases, a conservatorship may be necessary to protect a vulnerable adult from fraud or financial exploitation.

However, in other cases, an unscrupulous person may use a conservatorship as a vehicle for self-dealing. The law requires a conservator to act in the best interest of the dependent. Misuse of funds by a conservator may be grounds for anyone interested in the welfare of a vulnerable adult to bring legal claims based on the conservator's breach of fiduciary duties.

Minnesotans with loved ones suffering from incapacitating conditions should consider the merits of conservatorship as a means to preserve estate assets, but should also be aware of the potential for abuse of the conservator's authority. Anyone who is concerned about a conservator's management of a loved one's finances would benefit from a solid understanding of the legal options available for protecting the interests of the ward.

Source: Forbes, "Still legally blonde, Reese Witherspoon goes to court to protect dad," Danielle and Andy Mayoras, May 14, 2012

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