The daughter of actor Peter Falk spent the years leading up to his death in a very public battle trying to gain access to her father. Peter Falk, probably best known for his role as Columbo, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in his later years. His daughter, Catherine Falk, alleges that Peter Falk's second wife kept him from seeing his children and even banned them from his funeral. 

What Happened?

Catherine was forced to go to probate court to try to get access to her dad, only to learn that California law favors a spouse over the children in family disputes over who is put in charge of an incapacitated person. Once the spouse had been appointed to act for Peter Falk, she was not legally required to include his children in his life.

Catherine Falk is now waging a state-by-state campaign to grant children legal access to an elderly or incapacitated parent who is under someone else's care. The "Peter Falk Bill" has been introduced in California and New York and Falk said she would also like to see federal legislation enacted. Until then, there is "absolutely nothing on the books" to protect others from the same "awful" experience she had, says Falk..

How Do I Protect My Loved Ones?

In order to avoid this problem, a person can create a power of attorney that specifically lists who should be appointed as his guardian or conservator in case of disability. In the case of a blended family, the person may want to name one of his children to serve with his spouse. That way, both the child and the spouse would have to act together to care for the disabled person.

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