A Moon Landing, an Anniversary, and a Reconciliation

Fifty years ago, Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, and lunar module pilots Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin to the first lunar orbit. Many of us remember Armstrong describing the event on television as “…one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

A recent documentary was released in theaters to depict Apollo 11, featuring pictures from the 1969 event and original sound to tell the story. This movie about one of that year’s biggest events feels like it was made in 1969, and if you get a chance to see it, it was amazing in IMAX.

If you remember back in August of 2018, we wrote about how Buzz Aldrin was allegedly experiencing signs of dementia and how his children petitioned for guardianship, claiming their father was suffering from memory loss, delusions, paranoia, and confusion.

What Happened When Aldrin’s Children Filed for Guardianship

To remind our readers of what happened last year, the reason why Janice and Andrew Aldrin filed the petition for guardianship was that they believed that their 88-year-old father was being manipulated by others and spending money at an alarming rate. They asked to be granted guardianship over their father so they could manage his financial affairs and make other decisions for him, expressing concern about his mental decline. Read our article on this for more details.

Aldrin was not on board and filed a lawsuit of his own against his children, his business manager, and his family foundation alleging that they were improperly spending his money, mismanaging his affairs, and slandering him with assertions that he was suffering from dementia. Aldrin also expressed that he wanted his son removed as his trustee, so that he would never be in charge of his finances.

Aldrin voluntarily underwent a competency evaluation last spring and was found to be “perfectly competent.” After he filed suit against his children and his manager, the court ordered him to undergo three additional competency exams. The results of those exams were not released. However, Aldrin said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, “(n)obody is going to come close to thinking I should be under a guardianship.”

Mr. Aldrin also appeared on ABC to explain his views of the matter. His interview is available here.

What Was Next in the Aldrin Family Saga?

In February of 2019, with the original cases described above still pending, Buzz Aldrin’s son tried to stop his father from transferring assets out of two financial accounts in a trust, which names the younger Aldrin as trustee. Buzz Aldrin, 89, has tried to terminate the trust and wants the assets distributed to him.

Morgan Stanley, who manages the account, sought the court’s guidance on how to handle the situation amid conflicting instructions from Aldrin and his family. The case has yet to go to court, but in light of new information that is described below, it probably never will.

A Fiftieth Anniversary and a Surprising Reconciliation

Seeking to restore family harmony months before 50th anniversary celebrations of the first human moon landing, Aldrin had a change of heart and dropped his lawsuit that accused his children and the family foundation of abusing his finances and trust.

His children have also dismissed the effort to win legal guardianship of Aldrin. According to Aldrin, “(t)his was the most charitable way to manage a difficult situation, as this year, which marks 50 years since we first step foot on the moon, is too important to my family, the nation and me,” Buzz Aldrin said in a statement. Aldrin also stated that he “believes these dismissals are the right thing to do and will help restore family harmony.” Jan and Andy Aldrin echoed that sentiment.

Buzz Aldrin Situation Sheds Light on Guardianship

What happens when you have a loved one who maintains that he or she is competent, but that person is spending money recklessly, not acting like him or herself, and forgetting important things? Disagreements over how aging parents spend their money or handle their personal affairs are common, but sometimes their behavior can be concerning.
What happened with Buzz Aldrin and his children could happen to anyone, and unfortunately, there isn’t always a happy ending. Similar to Aldrin last year, very few people want to have court oversight and be unable to make decisions without getting someone else’s permission. That’s a big reason why proper legal planning is so important.

One way to help avoid a guardianship situation is to plan for your future needs by meeting with an experienced estate planning attorney to plan in advance, with Advance Medical Directives and a Financial Power of Attorney. By planning in advance, you select the individual(s) you completely trust to manage your affairs while you are still competent. You may also indicate in your advance directives that your named individuals are your “first choice” in the event that a guardian must be appointed for you. If you don’t already have an up-to-date power of attorney in place, then it’s critical to do so right away.

Update Your Documents to Account for Changes

Remember, even with your estate planning documents in place, things can change, and you need to make sure your documents reflect what you truly want. Once your documents are in place, be sure to update them regularly, to allow for changing circumstances. Ask about The Farr Law Firm’s Lifetime Protection Plan, which ensures that your documents are properly reviewed and updated as needed, so that they will have maximum effect at law.

Certainly, there are instances where Powers of Attorney aren’t enough to help. But those instances are the exceptions, not the rule. Every adult 18 years and older should consider having proper power of attorney documents, just in case.

If you have an incapacitated family member and you would like to talk about your options, call us to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation. If you don’t have an estate plan, now is the time to get started. Call us today to set up an appointment:

Estate Planning Attorney Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Estate Planning Attorney Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Estate Planning Attorney Rockville: 301-519-8041
Estate Planning Attorney DC: 202-587-2797

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