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Will the probate court need to appoint a conservator for Zsa Zsa Gabor?

Most people in Wayne County, or any part of Michigan, understand that events may occur that require the courts to appoint a guardian for young children. But many may not understand that the probate court, at times, is asked to appoint a guardian or conservator for adults.

Generally, a guardian may be appointed to make decisions for a legally incapacitated adult about such issues as medical care or housing. Similarly, the probate court in Michigan can be asked to appoint a conservator for an adult who can no longer manage his or her financial affairs and other issues due to some form of disability.

A recent probate court dispute from the West Coast highlights one of the many ways these types of issues can reach probate court. Constance Francesca Hilton is a daughter of the actress Zsa Zsa Gabor. Hilton recently filed a petition in probate court, asking the judge create a conservatorship to oversee her ailing mother's affairs.

Hilton has fought with Gabor's husband for years. Hilton and Zsa Zsa's husband of 25 years have sparred over how the actress's financial affairs have been managed, and Hilton seeks to have the court appoint a conservator to manage such issues, and other issues available under that state's conservatorship laws. Not surprisingly, Gabor's husband, Frederic von Anhalt, opposes the daughter's request.

The husband and daughter appeared in probate court earlier this month on the issue and told the judge that they hope to resolve their differences in mediation. The two have scheduled a meeting with a retired probate judge in late June, hoping to iron out their differences on the probate issue outside of the courtroom. The attorneys representing the husband and daughter will appear in probate court on July 11 to update the judge on how the case is proceeding.

Hilton and Von Anhalt have sparred for several years about how Gabor's financial affairs are being managed. Earlier this year, Zsa Zsa's daughter asked the court to appoint her to make decisions on behalf of her ailing mother, and at that time she also expressed concerns to the court about how Zsa Zsa's medical care is being handled. Zsa Zsa's husband says that the actress is receiving the best possible care, and her finances are being handled properly.

The attorneys associated with the case say that the dispute includes difficult issues, but both sides hope to work out the issues in mediation without protracted litigation in probate court. The parties will keep the probate judge updated on the progress of the case, and may return to the court to ask for a ruling if mediation fails to resolve the dispute.

Not all guardianship and conservatorship issues reach the probate court under a dispute between family members. Families may often agree on the necessity for such appointments, and further agree on how the conservatorship and/or guardianship should be created.

Source: Associated Press via San Jose Mercury News, "Attorneys try to settle Zsa Zsa Gabor care dispute," Anthony McCartney, May 2, 2012

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