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Judge finds Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson needs conservatorship because of mental decline

By ANDREW DALTON, Associated Press
Published: May 9, 2024, 1:36pm

LOS ANGELES — A judge found Thursday that Beach Boys founder and music luminary Brian Wilson should be in a court conservatorship to manage his personal and medical decisions because of what his doctor calls a “major neurocognitive disorder.”

At a hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gus T. May approved the petition filed by the 81-year-old Wilson’s family and inner circle after the death in January of his wife, Melinda Ledbetter Wilson, who handled most of his tasks and affairs.

“I find from clear and convincing evidence that a conservatorship of the person is necessary,” May said at the brief hearing. The judge said that evidence shows that Wilson consents to the arrangement and lacks the capacity to make health care decisions.

May appointed two longtime Wilson representatives, publicist Jean Sievers and manager LeeAnn Hard, as his conservators.

There were no significant objections raised.

Two of Wilson’s seven children, Carnie and Wendy Wilson from singing group Wilson Phillips, asked through their attorney that all the children be added to a group text chain about their father, and that all be consulted on medical decisions. The judge granted the stipulations.

The two daughters had asked for a delay in the process at an April 30 hearing while issues were worked out, but it was clear at the hearing that consensus had been reached.

A doctor’s declaration filed with the petition in February said Wilson has a “major neurocognitive disorder,” is taking medication for dementia, and “is unable to properly provide for his own personal needs for physical health, food, clothing, or shelter.”

Sievers and Hard have had a close relationship with Wilson and his wife for many years. In a report, Robert Frank Cipriano, an attorney appointed by the court to represent Wilson’s interests, said Wilson acknowledged the need for the conservatorship, and said he trusts the judgement of the two women.

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Cipriano’s report to the court said he visited Wilson at his “impeccably well maintained residence in Beverly Hills,” where he lives with two daughters and a long-term live-in caregiver.

Wilson can move around with help from a walker and the caregiver, Cipriano said, and he has a good sense of who he is, where he is, and when it is, but could not name his children beyond the two that live with him.

He said Wilson was “mostly difficult to understand and gave very short responses to questions and comments.”

Cipriano said he approved of the conservatorship, mostly because of Wilson’s general consent.

Wilson credited Ledbetter with stabilizing his famously troubled life after they met in the mid-1980s and married in 1995.

Wilson, his seven children, his caregiver, and his doctors consulted before the petition was filed, according to a family statement at the time. It said the decision was to ensure “there will be no extreme changes” and that “Brian will be able to enjoy all of his family and friends and continue to work on current projects.”

Judges in California can appoint a conservator for a person, their finances — referred to as the estate — or both, as was the case with Britney Spears. Spears’ case brought attention — much of it negative — to conservatorships, known in some states as guardianships, and prompted legislative changes. Wilson’s case is closer to the typical traditional use of a conservatorship, which very often is installed for an older person in irreversible mental decline.

The Wilson petition did not seek a conservator of the estate because his assets are in a trust, with Hard as a trustee.

Deeply revered and acclaimed as a co-founder, producer, arranger and chief songwriter of the Beach Boys and a masterful innovator of vocal harmony, Wilson struggled with mental health and substance abuse issues that upended his career in the 1960s.

He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 along with his bandmates, including his brothers Carl and Dennis and his cousin Mike Love.