Gene Wilder: What Your Legal Options Are in Your Loved One's Golden Years

Last week the world lost an incredible talent with a warm heart, Gene Wilder. Best known for his iconic role as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and other notable films such as Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, Gene Wilder made lasting impressions with unforgettable quotes ingrained on so many children’s and now adult minds.

What was not a generally known about Gene Wilder is that he had Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s is an irreversible and progressive disease that slowly attacks the mind and eventually causes death. Experts estimate that as many as 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s.

As many of us have loved ones or know someone who has suffered with this illness, chances are you know how debilitating it can be. Although the symptoms can vary widely, those stricken with the disease generally experience cognitive impairment, such an inability to find the right words, spatial or visual issues, and a worsening of one’s judgment and ability to reason.

Despite the obvious strain of seeing your loved one go through this painful transition, the emotional stress is compounded when the family has to bear the responsibilities of providing adequate health care along with the financial costs. It is no doubt difficult for everyone; nonetheless, the legal process is available to you to ease the burden.


Conservatorship is one option when tasked with the responsibility of caring for your loved one with Alzheimer’s and other similar diseases. In Connecticut, you can petition to appointment a conservator in your local Probate Court by filing the requisite forms.

In doing so, you must show that your loved one’s mental, emotional and/or physical condition prevents them from performing day-to-day functions necessary for their own well-being.[2]

There are two types of conservatorships: (1) conservator for the person where one cannot care for their own needs, or (2) conservator of the estate that is where one is unable to look after their own financial affairs or best interests due to some encumbrance, such as a medical condition.

Conservatorship can be critical to protecting your loved one’s rights, especially against the potential for theft, for simple mismanagement of funds. The law even allows for the freezing of the respondent’s bank accounts, if necessary, among other things to protect their loved one.

It is not clear at this time whether or not Gene Wilder’s family had conservatorship over him, but it is not uncommon for someone suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Power of Attorney

Power of Attorney (POA) is another option when having to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or similar illness. A power of attorney gives another equal power and authority to make all legal and financial decisions on behalf of your loved one.

A POA is free from regular oversight as a general rule but it is possible to seek the court’s protection with a conservatorship if the family doesn’t understand or trust what is going on with the management of the person’s assets and/or to seek an accounting of the who holds POA under limited circumstances.

A POA can be an attractive option because it allows your loved one to specifically designate what authority they want to give; for example, any decisions concerning your loved one’s bank accounts or real estate. The down side is that it only pertains really to one’s finances or business affairs.

Health Care Directive

A power of attorney is typically coupled with a health care directive. This allows your loved one to make important health care decisions while of sound mind on a HCD form, and then designate another to carry out his or her wishes by proxy.

As we celebrate the life of Gene Wilder and as details of his sickness emerge, you might be wondering which legal option is right for you and your family in caring for a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s or another equally terrible disease. If so, we are here to help you.

Contact the Law Offices of Charles Kurmay if You Need Help Appointing a Conservator or Need a Probate Lawyer for Any Matter in Connecticut or New York.

At the Law Offices of Charles Kurmay, our skilled and experienced attorneys routinely assist clients in probate matters, which range from regular estate administration to very complex probate litigation. We regularly litigate in the Probate and Superior Courts in Connecticut and in New York as well. We help clients plan their estates, drafting wills and trusts while helping with tax and Medicaid planning to protect the wealth hard working people have earned over the course of their lives and to help prevent the disaster that we are discussing here.

With offices located in Milford, New York City, Norwalk, and León Spain, we truly are a local firm with a global reach.

Our Fairfield County office proudly services your legal needs in Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newtown, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.

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If this or anything similar has happened to you, please call us at (203) 380-1743. We are available to talk anytime.