Los Angeles actress Reese Witherspoon and her brother were in probate court last month to request a conservatorship for their 70-year-old father. Reese’s mother, Betty Witherspoon, and father, John Witherspoon, have been married for more than 40 years.
The couple separated in the mid-1990s because of John’s unfaithfulness, alcoholism, hoarding and spending habits, according to Betty Witherspoon. The actress’s parents still meet at family functions. Both were present at Reese Witherspoon’s 2011 wedding.
Reese’s mother filed an affidavit saying she discovered a published wedding announcement showing her estranged husband had married another woman. Betty Witherspoon contacted John. Apparently, the elderly man could not recall that the second wedding had taken place or the name of the bride.
Betty Witherspoon has accused John’s new wife of elder exploitation. The 63-year-old Betty said she believes the woman illegally signed for a $400,000 loan and altered the elderly man’s will.
The estranged wife wants John Witherspoon’s second marriage dissolved to protect him from bigamy charges. The actress’s mother is demanding that the woman claiming to be John’s wife vacate the family’s properties and return any possessions.
Betty Witherspoon contends her legal action was motivated by safety concerns and the love she says she still feels for her estranged husband.
A probate court may order a conservatorship for a person who is disabled or incapacitated by physical or mental illness. A medical or psychiatric evaluation helps to determine the ability of an individual to care for themselves and what they own.
If John Witherspoon is suffering from dementia, a conservatorship can protect him from making decisions that could harm him. Family members most often file conservatorship requests. It is likely that one, or both, of John Witherspoon’s children are now charged with looking out for the elderly man’s personal and financial interests.
John Witherspoon’s conservatorship hearing was closed to the media. A probate court will decide later this month if a petition from the local media to unseal court and open future hearings to the public is valid.
Source: bradenton.com, “Lawyer asked to investigate Witherspoon case,” May 31, 2012