Reese Witherspoon’s Family’s Struggle with Dementia

When we think about estate planning, we often think of planning for what will happen when we die. As one of America's sweethearts, Reese Witherspoon (and her family) recently found, planning for incapacity is just as important.

When we think about estate planning, we often think of planning for what will happen when we die.  As one of America’s sweethearts, Reese Witherspoon (and her family) recently found, planning for incapacity is just as important.

On Saturday, January 14, 2012, John Witherspoon (Reese’s dad) married Patricia “Tricianne” Taylor.  This was a second marriage for Mr. Witherspoon and, unfortunately, he’d not yet dissolved his first marriage to Mary (Reese’s mom).  Mary and John have been separated for 16 years but never divorced.  Mary reports that she still loves him but could not live with him for a host of reasons.  It appears that dementia may be among his current medical difficulties and, Mary says, he doesn’t remember marrying Tricianne.

Tricianne, however, is proceeding as though she is legally Mrs. John Witherspoon, according to Mary, who says that Tricianne convinced a bank to lend the couple $400,000, tried to borrow money herself posing as John’s wife, is living in a family-owned condo and driving the family’s cars.

In response, Mary filed a petition to have the marriage annulled due to bigamy.  Having unsuccessfully reached out to Tricianne to get her to stop posing as John’s wife and using family assets, Mary had a temporary restraining order put in place to prevent Tricianne from using the family name or holding herself out as John’s wife.

Following that filing, Reese joined Mary in petitioning a Tennessee court for conservatorship over her father’s assets to prevent any further use of John’s credit, income, and assets by Tricianne or others who might have ill intent.

There are various estate planning tools (trusts and powers of attorney among them) which can serve as protection for you and family members if you or someone you love becomes mentally incapacitated.  Waiting to put that kind of planning in place can result in tremendous legal hurdles, expense, and heartache for those you love.  Take a lesson from the Witherspoon family’s experience and talk to a qualified estate planning attorney to determine what you should do to protect yourself and your family.

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