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An Elder Law Nightmare: Stepparents Denying Stepchildren The Right To Visit Their Elderly Parents


Generation X eased into middle age by watching what was then called “peak television,” thought-provoking dramas such as The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, crafted for the small screen with as much care and attention to details of narrative and aesthetics as any of the classics of Hollywood cinema.  When Baby Boomers started to figure out that they were no longer young, they could take solace in Columbo, a series of movie-length TV episodes crafted much more meticulously as the average police procedural; in the 1970s, sitting through the commercial breaks seemed like a small price to pay to find out how Columbo would solve the crime.  The public’s memories of Peter Falk, the actor who played Columbo, are of his iconic TV detective character with the disheveled beige raincoat.  For Falk’s daughter Catherine, however, the memories are bittersweet.  During her father’s final years, when he was under conservatorship and suffering from dementia, her stepmother prevented her from visiting her father, so she never got the chance to say goodbye.  You have probably heard similar stories about the sad ending of other stars from your youth, but one family member isolating an elderly relative from the rest of the family is not a problem unique to the rich and famous. For help planning for your long-term care in ways that protect against family estrangement, contact an Orlando estate planning lawyer.

If You Have Opinions About Your Family Dynamics, Put Them in Writing While You Are Healthy

So far, 11 states have enacted laws that give family members recourse to the courts to request court-ordered visitation with an elderly relative who is under conservatorship and whose conservator will not allow the family member to visit the elderly relative.  In some states, these laws bear Peter Falk’s name, due in part to his daughter’s efforts to persuade lawmakers to pass such legislation.

Florida is not one of these states; as of 2024, it does not have a Peter Falk’s law.  This does not mean, though, that there is nothing you can do to prevent your closest caregiver from cutting off contact between you and the rest of your family.  The sooner you act, though, the better.  While you are healthy, you should write a springing power of attorney and include as uc detail as possible about financial and non-financial matters.  If some members of your family do not get along with each other, don’t expect things to miraculously get better when you are in poor health.  You can often prevent family conflict by appointing an attorney or other unbiased professional to implement your instructions; this way it is not one family member’s word against the other’s about what you actually want.

Contact Gierach and Gierach About Realistic Retirement Plans

An estate planning lawyer can help you plan for your incapacity in a way that safeguards against family conflict.  Contact Gierach and Gierach, P.A. in Orlando, Florida to discuss your case.

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