Aging Options

Déjà Vu: Battle over Care of Ailing Comedian Tim Conway Seems Sadly Familiar

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He was one of the funniest men on television in his heyday, and his deadpan humor was a staple on the top-rated Carol Burnett Show which premiered on network television in 1967 and ran for 11 seasons. But today, Tim Conway is a sad shell of what he once was. Suffering from dementia, the one-time funny man is now the subject of what amounts to a custody fight between his wife and his daughter, each one claiming to have Conway’s best interests as heart. Once again, it would seem, a celebrity is caught in his or her declining years without an adequate care plan in place, and the result should be a cautionary tale for us all.

Another Famous Family in Turmoil

Here at Aging Options we’ve reported on similar situations many times before, recounting the sad state of affairs when celebrities, in spite of all their resources and legal help, fail to plan properly for their declining years. Just last week we learned that Aretha Franklin died without a will or trust. Over the past few years entertainment industry reporters have chronicled the family battle over the media empire controlled by multibillionaire broadcast executive Sumner Redstone. Now a series of recent articles, like this one from People magazine, are describing how 84-year-old Conway, severely impaired with dementia, is the subject of a battle between his wife Charlene and his daughter Kelly. The reports in People and other websites say wife Charlene wants to move Conway to a different care facility, and daughter Kelly who vehemently opposes the move has gone to court to seek to be appointed conservator.

“Kelly, [age] 56, filed the documents in Los Angeles on Friday,” says People, “claiming Conway’s wife Charlene is ‘planning to move him out of the excellent skilled nursing facility he is currently at’ and place him in one that won’t give him access to ‘registered nurses at all times and his 24-hour caregiver and speech therapist (to help with swallowing).’” Kelly, whose mother was Conway’s first wife, has six other siblings, but there’s no indication in the news accounts that they have joined in the family controversy over their father’s care.

Daughter Goes to Court

As reported in People, Kelly also states that Conway cannot “properly provide for his personal needs for physical health, food, and clothing” and is “almost entirely unresponsive.” She hopes to be granted guardianship so she can also administer her father’s medications herself. She is also seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the move.

Another article about Conway, this one from Entertainment Weekly, quotes court-appointed attorney Michael Harris who disputes daughter Kelly’s claim. “Kelly previously asked to be appointed the conservator of her father and be in charge of his medical treatments following his dementia diagnosis — out of fear that Charlene would not provide him the proper care,” says the article. “However, in the documents, Harris stated Charlene is ‘obviously devoted’ to her husband.” The attorney claims that Charlene’s only motive for moving Conway is to put him under the care of a noted neurologist. “Her concern now is for Mr. Conway to receive proper physical therapy so that he can better improve neurologically,” Harris stated. “It is my present belief that Mrs. Conway, my client’s wife, is an adequate and appropriate steward of her husband’s well-being and that her motives regarding Mr. Conway are in his best interest.”

Rajiv’s Question: “Why?”

The point in cases like this, says AgingOption’s Rajiv Nagaich, is not who’s right and who’s wrong. The tragic point is a clear lack of planning. Tim Conway, whose net worth is estimated at $15 million, could certainly have afforded good legal planning – so why was it so painfully absent? “This is another Casey Kasem case,” says Rajiv derisively.  “Conway is on his second marriage.  His current wife wants to institutionalize her husband. His daughter from his first marriage wants to intervene. This all sounds so painfully familiar. In my mind this case raises a whole host of questions. First, if Tim Conway had a Power of Attorney, why would or should the courts intervene? Why wasn’t a family meeting held early in the process to get everyone on the same page regarding Conway’s care? Why is this person with so much money looking at institutional care as the only good option?  Why, why, why was this not planned for?”

Sadly, adds Rajiv, “Conway made his bed – now he sleeps in it.”

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Sooner or later we are all either the victim or the beneficiary of the planning we do for the future. You may not be a celebrity, but regardless of the size of your estate, we hope you’ll take this story as yet another important reminder to get started planning for your own retirement. Let us offer you a perfect place to start: come join Rajiv at one of our highly popular, absolutely free LifePlanning Seminars. There you’ll discover how you can enjoy the benefits of one of the most comprehensive retirement planning strategies available anywhere: an AgingOptions LifePlan. Instead of you having to create five different “plans” to cover your finances, your legal protection, your medical coverage, your housing choices and your family communication, just one overarching LifePlan weaves all the elements together into a seamless retirement blueprint.

We offer LifePlanning Seminars throughout the Puget Sound area, so for a complete calendar of upcoming events, visit our Live Events page and register for the seminar of your choice. Don’t let fear, ignorance or pride rob you of the benefits of a well-crafted retirement plan. Come see what a LifePlan can mean for you and your family. Age on!

(originally reported at

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