A judge placed former “Columbo” star’s Peter Falk in a conservatorship Monday to ensure his daughter could occasionally visit the ailing 81-year-old actor.
Falk’s wife of more than 30 years, Shera, will remain in control of his personal care and affairs. Falk has advanced dementia, likely from Alzheimer’s disease, one of his doctors testified Monday.
Catherine Falk petitioned in December to take over her father’s affairs despite a sometimes contentious relationship with Falk and his wife. By court order, she will be allowed a 30-minute visit with her father every other month.
Falk’s condition virtually ensures he will not remember the meetings, his doctor said.
The Emmy-winning actor slipped rapidly into dementia since a series of dental operations in late 2007, Dr. Stephen Read testified Monday, the final day of a two-day conservatorship hearing.
Read said it was unclear whether Falk’s condition worsened as a result of anesthesia or some other reaction to the operation.
Read first evaluated Falk in June 2008 before the actor was scheduled to undergo hip surgery. His dementia and apparent Alzheimer’s disease worsened after that procedure, and Read said the actor no longer remembers his signature role in the series “Columbo.”
Falk won four Emmys for his starring role in “Columbo.” He also received Academy Award nominations for movies in 1959 and 1960.
For months, he has lived in a guesthouse at his Beverly Hills home that has been converted into an art studio and living quarters. He has around-the-clock care, and Shera Falk testified that she cooks dinner for her husband nightly.
Falk in 2005 designated Shera Falk to be his caregiver and the keeper of his estate.
Catherine Falk, 38, withdrew a petition to take over control of the actor’s finances, saying she was only concerned about visiting her father.
The hearing placed a spotlight on a series of slights within the family that led to the court action. Catherine Falk alleged Shera Falk ridiculed her father, slammed the door in her face and cut off contact with him when he grew ill.
Shera Falk testified that her husband thought his daughter was troublesome and that they were never close. Her attorney used the actor’s personal diary to show how he regarded their relationship in the last decade.
Catherine Falk acknowledged during the hearing that a lawsuit she filed against her father drove a wedge between them, but that they had reconciled. She had sued her father to force him to pay her tuition and expenses while attending Syracuse University.
Her attorney used postcards and telegrams Falk sent to his daughter when she was a child to illustrate a closer relationship than the actor’s wife was willing to admit.
As testimony bogged down Monday in a final series of accusations and rebuttals, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Aviva K. Bobb ordered attorneys for both sides into her chambers.
The attorneys then brokered a compromise in a courthouse hallway that would allow Catherine Falk visitations, but not entry into his inner sanctum. The visits will take place at the home of a friend who lives down the street from Peter and Shera Falk.
“We’re thrilled with the result,” said Troy Martin, Catherine Falk’s attorney.
Shera Falk’s attorney, Marshal Oldman, also claimed victory, saying the hearing proved that Falk’s wife had provided top-notch care and should be allowed to continue that role. He said Falk’s physical health is good.
“Essentially, this is a family matter,” Oldman said, noting that Falk was a private man. “It’s important that families can figure out how to get along. It’s a good outcome for everybody.”