Is Buzz Aldrin, the former astronaut who followed Neil Armstrong onto the moon, no longer competent to handle his own affairs? Are his spending habits symptoms of financial exploitation and elder abuse, or are two of his children trying to exploit their father's advanced age for their own selfish desires?
Those are the sort of questions that a judge will soon have to answer once the former astronaut is done with his competency evaluation and the petition for guardianship by his children is officially before the court. At that point, it'll be up to the judge to decide Aldrin's future, including whether or not he retains the right to make his own personal decisions.
According to reports on the case, two of Aldrin's children claim that they are trying to keep their father from being financially abused by some new business associates.
Aldrin recently created a new business entity to direct his affairs and seeks to disengage from his longtime business manager. He has accused the business manager, along with two of his children, of misusing the family's foundation, spending his money without due care and falsely telling people that he has dementia.
His longtime manager and the two children that are involved in the case deny the allegations and say that Aldrin is confused. They accuse his new business associates of creating the rift and claim that they only want to preserve Aldrin's legacy to the world. The children have asked the court to grant them guardianship over their father and his financial affairs.
Aldrin was evaluated just a few months ago by a mental health expert and his longtime attorney says that he cannot imagine a new evaluation, which is already scheduled, showing anything other than competency.
Many older people find themselves in a similar position to Aldrin, especially when there's a lot of money involved. When someone older begins to make abrupt changes to their lives and finances, some family members are convinced that it has to be a sign of dementia or exploitation.
Sometimes they're right. Sometimes, however, the changes are merely the reflection of the senior's changing view of the world and his or her place in it.
Cases like this show how important elder law planning can be. Handled carefully, it can often resolve family disputes like those faced by Aldrin and his family.