Visitation Rights to Children of Ailing Parents

Moving_parents_t650It's the quirky Christmases Catherine Falk remembers the most.  "To us, he wasn't 'Columbo.' He was dad," she told FoxNews.com of her famous father Peter Falk. "He wasn't in character. He was the character. He was genuinely this bumbling, goofy, absent-minded guy who was so funny and loved his family," Catherine Falk, remembered with a laugh. "We'd give him these Christmas presents and he'd put them in his trunk and forget about them. Then the next Christmas would come around and he'd open the trunk of his Mercedes and there they'd be, all the present from last year." The all-around funny family man would go on to create many happy memories with those closest to him. But when he got sick, things got complicated. His children accused his wife of alienating him. They said they weren't allowed to talk to or see him and were denied any information about his health. It's a case that's being played out in thousands of households in America.

Across the country, there's been a noticeable increase in adult children being denied access to their ailing parents. States are beginning to take notice and drafting legislation to open up visitation rights to children, according to a Fox News story titled“'Columbo' daughter pushes for bill that protects the right to visit sick parents.”

In Falk’s case, she and her stepmother were locked in a court battle over conservatorship and access to Peter for years. In 2008, he became completely incapacitated from his advanced dementia. Catherine then decided to create the Catherine Falk Organization, which advocates for the rights of adult children to see their sick parents.

Catherine was able to get an order for visitation from a court that was made at the complete discretion of the judge. Conservators in California currently don’t have to inform family members on the health, hospitalization or death of a relative. Part of the problem, California Assemblyman Mike Gatto said is the frequent tension between the second or third spouse and the children of the first marriage. That conflict often gets worse when a parent becomes sick. (Remember Casey Kasem?)

Current California law gives the rights relating to the care of loves ones to the spouse. Children have no legal way to arrange visitation with their ailing parents, to receive notice of hospitalization or even the death of their mom or dad. Children also have no access to information on the funeral arrangements.

Gatto’s bill, if passed, seeks to reverse the law and create a new legal process for adult children to ask the court to visit a parent under care who is not in a conservatorship. The Assemblyman thinks it will pass and hopes this law will be a blueprint for other states considering similar measures to help ailing seniors.

Contact an experienced elder law attorney who can help make arrangements to keep the family peace should that time come for your family.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Fox News (June 7, 2015) “'Columbo' daughter pushes for bill that protects the right to visit sick parents”

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