We know him as Colombo, but one woman knows Peter Falk as “Dad”. She’s on a mission to change the way visitation for ailing and elderly parents unfolds. Across the nation, we’ve seen a startling rise in adult children being denied access to their ailing parents. Now, though, several states are taking notice and moving forward with legislation that would open up visitation rights to children. It’s controversial in many step-families, but Catherine Falk aims to change it in order to level the playing field.
Falk and her stepmother, Shera Denise Falk, battled in courtrooms over the conservatorship and access to the now-deceased Peter Falk. His daughter says that once her father became ill, the family divided. His adult children accused their stepmother of preventing them from seeing their father. Not only were they not allowed to see him, but they were prevented from speaking with him on the phone and questions about his health were never answered. By
2008, it was too late as the actor had become completely incapacitated due to advanced dementia. Catherine speaks of Fathers Days that she was not allowed to see her father. She turned to the legal system.
She’s not alone, even in Hollywood. Several similar cases are unfolding in a similar manner, including the family of the late B.B. King. It’s likely to unfold in a similar fashion once Tom Benson passes away; in fact, it’s already begun and he’s still living and actively involved in his sports teams, including the New Orleans Saints.
His daughter and two grandchildren are already battling Benson’s third wife in court.
Falk explained how she felt in many of the courtroom visits, “You’re sitting in a courtroom and it’s so surreal,” she said. “It cost me $100,000. Nobody has that kind of money. Most people in America don’t have the financial resources to battle something like this.” Soon, she made the decision to create the Catherine Falk Organization.
This organization advocates for the rights of adult children and their ill parents. Currently, it’s the conservators who hold the keys to visitation. Further, they’re not required by law to tell the isolated family member that his children are trying to visit with him.
The sicker the parent becomes, the worse the conflict. Most families don’t have access to the hundreds of thousands of dollars in can cost those who only want to visit with their family members. Falk eventually paid more than $200,000 in her quest.
In most states, no one is obligated to notify other family members when someone dies. There have been many instances when adult children weren’t even notified regarding funeral arrangements. Thanks to Falk, there now exists the possibility of reversing some of these laws and putting into place new legal processes for children to petition the court for visitation. There’s still much work to be done, though.
To learn more about your rights, including the role of healthcare proxies, we invite you to contact our offices today. We can help clarify your rights to visit aging parents, even if there is a step parent involved.