Zsa Zsa Gabor’s daughter, Francesca Hilton, and 9th husband, Prince Frederic von Anhalt have been fighting each other about Gabor’s finances and medical care for years. When von Anhalt announced that he wanted his 94-year old wife to be a “mother” again by seeking an egg donor, artificial insemination and a surrogate mother — which could make Gabor a mother, at least legally– we wrote that the fight was destined to end up in court through a conservator proceeding. The only surprise since then has been that it’s taken this long for Hilton to start the court case.
Her attorney filed the conservatorship paperwork in the Los Angeles probate court on March 20, 2012. Interestingly, the case was assigned to the same judge who is handling Britney Spears’ conservatorship. Hilton asks to be appointed as the conservator for her mother, which would give her the right to make Gabor’s medical, financial and other decisions under the supervision of the court, if she wins the case.
In her petition to the court, which you can read here, courtesy of Eonline, Hilton alleges that for the last year and a half, since Gabor fell and broke her hip, von Anhalt has been isolating Gabor and over-medicating her, in an increasing pattern. She says she’s only been allowed to see Gabor twice in the last several months, and Gabor was sedated both times, with evidence of bed sores and lesions on her face. She wants her mother to be medically evaluated to see if she is required to be bedridden.
Hilton also makes accusations about the finances. She says that von Anhalt has allowed the house to go into foreclosure. Hilton’s petition includes a copy of a recent notice of default filed against the home by the bank that holds the mortgage. She accuses von Anhalt of taking out a $700,000 loan against the house, but says he hasn’t been using it to make mortgage payments. Hilton says Gabor and von Anhalt signed a prenuptial agreement, keeping her money out of his control, and this loan undermined Gabor’s wishes.
So how did the publicity-loving von Anhalt respond to the news of this court case? He held a press conference, of course. TMZ has the video footage, which you can watch here. In the video, he rants against Hilton and says she’s only after Gabor’s money. He goes on to complain how he and Gabor are $6 million in debt, and the loan was needed to help pay for her medical bills. He even goes so far as to blame Hilton for the fact that the mortgage on the house is so large.
Yet this is the same man who spent $70,000 on a billboard to commemorate the happy couple’s 25-year wedding anniversary. And he holds lavish parties at Gabor’s house for events like her recent 95th birthday, even though Gabor is too incompetent to know what is happening. One can only wonder how much of this $6 million debt was incurred because of his recent campaign for governor of California and his upcoming run to be elected the next mayor of Los Angeles.
Family fights over an aging loved one end up in court through guardianship and conservatorship proceedings all too often, especially in second-marriage families. Of course, in Gabor’s case, it’s a ninth-marriage family, but surprisingly, she has only one child. That one child is not happy with the way her step-father is controlling Gabor and isolating her, and it’s hard to blame her. But, ultimately, the question of whether Gabor needs a conservator will come down to whether or not her care and/or finances have been compromised.
That’s not always easy to prove. Certainly, there are two sides to every story, and von Anhalt insists he is a loving and devoted husband, who cares only about Gabor’s well-being. He thinks that Hilton’s visits are detrimental to Gabor. Specifically, von Anhalt says that Hilton is not happy enough, which could depress Gabor.
Will the Judge intercede and order that Hilton be allowed more time to see her mother before she passes away? And will the Judge attempt to find peace in the family by appointing a neutral, third-party conservator to manage the situation, given the obvious hatred that both sides have for one another? We’ll watch closely to find out.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, where you feel an elderly family member is at risk — or if someone is challenging the level of care that you are providing — then it may be time for you to speak with an experienced attorney who regularly handles guardianship and conservatorship cases. While no one likes to go down that route, it’s often unavoidable. Seeking good legal counsel early can sometimes even avoid a costly dispute, or at the very least, help you through the process if a court fight is inevitable.
By Danielle and Andy Mayoras, co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, husband-and-wife legacy expert attorneys, and hosts of the national television special, Trial & Heirs: Protect Your Family Fortune! For the latest celebrity and high-profile cases, with tips to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your clients, click here to subscribe to The Trial & Heirs Update. You can “like” them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.