Mental Competence/Conservatorship

This looks like an attempt at a potential conservatorship of Sumner Redstone the 92-year-old executive chairman of Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp.  However, at this juncture Mr. Redstone will not have to submit to a battery of medical tests to determine his mental competence as on November 30, 2015, Judge Clifford L. Klein, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Probate Judge, presiding in Department 11 denied a request by Redstone’s former girlfriend, Manuela Herzer, to speed up the legal process to determine whether Redstone is mentally fit to make decisions about his health. That would have required  to immediately give videotaped testimony and submit to brain scans, among other tests.

The Court appeared clear. “I did not find there was any urgency,” Superior Court Judge Clifford L. Klein told the courtroom filled with lawyers, reporters, publicists and others interested in the media companies that Redstone controls. “Mr. Redstone is not suffering from any critical health issues … other than his age,” Klein said. “But at 92 years old, conditions can change very rapidly.”

Judge Klein listed four factors that influenced his decision that the case did not constitute an emergency: Redstone’s personal physician visits him two times a week; Redstone has a round-the-clock team of nurses at his Beverly Park home; Redstone was not suffering from a critical health issue; and the agent in charge of Redstone’s advance healthcare directive was an attorney and the chief executive of Viacom: Philippe Dauman.

The case, BP168725 was subsequently transferred to the courtroom of Probate Judge David Cowan in Department 79 of the Los Angeles Probate Court for as future hearing on January 27, 2016.

Herzer wanted the judge to expedite the proceedings so that her attorneys could begin to take videotaped testimony of the mogul who may have suffered from a stroke and has trouble speaking and signing his name.

Herzer’s attorneys also wanted Mr. Sumner to submit to a series of sophisticated brain scans — not just a single CT scan that was recently conducted. Herzer’s lawyers cited the California Probate Code, and argued an individual has “a fundamental interest in having his personally selected agent in place to make highly personal and intimate health care choices for him when he is unable to do so for himself, as is currently the case.”

Attorneys for Mr. Redstone allege that Herzer has little interest in Mr. Redstone’s ongoing healthcare regimen and instead is worried that she has been cut out of Redstone’s will that will distribute Mr. Redstone’s personal fortune, which is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Common issues or allegations in the Conservatorship Petition alleging the following problems:

— major impairment to short term, long term and immediate recall memory
— major impairment to verbally communicate
— major impairment to perform simple calculations, plan simple tasks and reason logically.
— severe disorganized thinking
— moderate hallucinations

Conservatorship by its nature is an infringement of an individual’s civil liberties. Authority to make fundamental decisions like what to eat, what to wear, where to reside, and who will be allowed to touch the patient, can be taken away and given to another; to be exercised in the patient’s best interests. Someone will take title to the patient’s property, intercept the patient’s mail and pension payments, and manage the patient’s investments; in strict accordance with prudent practices, of course. Complete compliance with all applicable laws is practiced by competent fiduciaries, and strictly enforced by bevies of attorneys and an ever-watchful court; at the patient’s expense. Conservatorship is such a serious and expensive invasion that it must be the last resort. Probate Code section 1800.3 (b) states: “No conservatorship of the person or of the estate shall be granted by the court unless the court makes an express finding that the granting of the conservatorship is the least restrictive alternative needed for the protection of the conservatee.” To establish a probate conservatorship, a petitioner must show by clear and convincing evidence, the civil equivalent of “beyond reasonable doubt,” that the proposed conservatee cannot properly provide for their basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and health care. Probate Code Section 1801(a)  If there is any reasonable alternative to conservatorship, the court would be unable to make the affirmative finding necessary to appoint a conservator.   This standard is higher than the typical “preponderance of the evidence” standard as a result of the importance the legislature has given to the determination.  The conservatorship must be last resort – Probate Code 1821(a)(3): petitioner must inform court of alternatives to conservatorship and why the alternatives will not work.

Our experienced Los Angeles conservatorship attorneys are here to help clients in Santa Monica, Orange County and throughout Southern California defend their rights under the law.

We are here to help you and your loved ones.  To discuss your needs and discover your options, consult the Los Angeles incapacity, conservatorship, and estate planning attorneys at Ginzburg & Bronshteyn, LLP.  We serve clients in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura County, and throughout Southern and Northern California including Agoura Hills, Anaheim, Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Camarillo, Encino, Hidden Hills, Irvine, Lake Sherwood, Laguna Beach, Orange, Oxnard, Pasadena, San Francisco,  Santa Monica, Simi Valley, Tarzana, Thousand Oaks, Torrance, West Los Angeles, and Woodland Hills. Our attorneys are renowned for producing high quality work and working diligently to achieve our client’s goals. We have developed a reputation for effective representation in complex and sophisticated matters as we guide you through the complex legal process. We are experienced in obtaining and defending against conservatorships. Contact us by calling (310) 914-3222 in Los Angeles, (714) 280-0601 in Orange County, or (818) 787-1011 in Westlake Village, or by using our online contact form.