Legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin is suing two of his children and a former business manager, accusing them of misusing his credit cards, transferring money from an account and slandering him by saying he has dementia as well as sabotaging his romantic life. Senior Associate Melissa Tucker discusses the increasingly prevalent issue of elder abuse.
Aldrin was a member of the historic Apollo 11 crew which landed the first humans on the moon. Aldrin joined Neil Armstrong to be the second person to walk on the lunar surface in July 1969. Although Neil Armstong is perhaps the most famous of the Apollo 11 team with his immortal words ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’, he passed away in 2012 at age 82, leaving Buzz Aldrin to carry the flag. Buzz Aldrin is a well respected celebrity in American life.
Aldrin’s lawsuit filed last month in a Florida state court came a week after his children, Andrew and Janice, filed a petition claiming their father was suffering from memory loss, delusions, paranoia and confusion. They asked for the court to name them his legal guardians, saying Aldrin was associating with ‘new friends’ who were trying to alienate Aldrin from his family and that he had been spending his assets at “an alarming rate”.
In April this year, the 88-year-old Aldrin underwent his own evaluation conducted by a geriatric psychiatrist at UCLA, who said Aldrin scored “superior to normal” for his age on tests.
In Aldrin’s lawsuit, the former astronaut asked a judge to remove Andrew Aldrin from control of his financial affairs, social media accounts and several non-profit and business enterprises. Andrew Aldrin had been a trustee of his father’s trust.
Buzz Aldrin also said in the complaint that despite revoking the power of attorney he had given his son, Andrew Aldrin continued making financial decisions for him. “Specifically, defendant Andrew Aldrin, as trustee, does not inform plaintiff of pending or future business transactions, removes large sums of moneys from plaintiff’s accounts, and continues to represent plaintiff in business and social capacities despite plaintiff’s repeated requests for such representations to be terminated,” the lawsuit said.
The astronaut says his son has swiped nearly half a million dollars from his personal bank account in the past two years, reports The New York Post . He also claimed his son and daughter committed elder abuse by hiding “pertinent financial and business information” from him.
As this legal rift unfolds the United States is nearing celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 next year and at a time when Aldrin seeks to remain an influential voice on space exploration policy. Just last month he enjoyed a front-row seat at the White House during a meeting of the National Space Council.
It’s going to take the court a lot of sifting through documents and testimony from both sides to get to the bottom of this case. Three mental health experts appointed by the court are also scheduled to conduct a competency exam to determine the current status of Buzz’s cognitive abilities. One would think with such a high profile person such as Buzz Aldrin, all would be well and taken care of by his adult children. Unfortunately, this is typical of the issues that families find themselves in, and increasingly, elderly parents and grandparents are being exploited by their children and grandchildren.
The issues faced with the Aldrin family are very common in Australia as well. Money can certainly bring out the worst in everyone, so you must be proactive in these matters. It is often a delicate balancing act to respect the elderly person but also to do the right thing to protect their assets. Sometimes the condition of dementia itself makes the elderly person difficult to deal with and they have little insight into their condition. Conversely, some attorney’s abuse their position and treat their parents assets as their own, thinking the estate will pass to them on the death of their parent anyway!
According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, as many as 50,000 people over 65 years have experienced some form of abuse or neglect in NSW alone. It is likely that the figures are very similar in Queensland and other States of Australia. It is a serious social issue which cannot be ignored by families and those professionals involved in the aged health care industry. For further information on this issue, see the link to our previous blog on this matter. Elder Abuse on the Rise – How To Get Help!
If you are a victim of elder abuse, do not hesitate to contact the relevant Helpline in your State or Territory – NSW Elder Abuse Helpline and QLD Elder Abuse Helpline. If the abuse is imminent and physical, please ring your local Police or dial 000. You should also confide in your treating General Practitioner or visiting Health Professionals and they will make sure that the appropriate persons are notified and that help can be provided to you.
An alternative is to contact your lawyers and have them review your Enduring Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardian. These are very important documents that everyone should regularly review and make sure that their affairs are going to be handled independently and with your best interests in mind. Sometimes this can be difficult with capacity issues brought about by the onset of dementia, but just because you have been dignosed with this condition, it does not mean you cannot provide instructions for these documents to be prepared. Please contact our office for an obligation free initial appointment if you require advice.
This simple attention to your legal documents could save you and your family a lot of stress, anxiety and financial loss.
If you are someone who believes their Power of Attorney has been abused, or if you are an attorney requiring some assistance with the execution of your duties, or you would like assistance in preparation of a Power of Attorney please do not hesitate to contact our Wills & Estates Department Manager, Donna Tolley on free call 1800 621 071 or direct line 07 5506 8241 or email [email protected] to arrange an appointment.
We have a dedicated Wills and Estates team that practices exclusively in this complicated area. Please click here to access our team brochure with details of our professional staff.