DENVER (CBS4) – Some Colorado lawmakers want to strip some the decision making power from legal guardians, and they’re getting help from the daughter of a famous actor.
The bill is named after Peter Falk, the actor who played Columbo on TV. What it does seems basic — it simply allows families to see their loved ones when they become incapacitated. It’s about the power of guardians and the rights of some of the most vulnerable Coloradans.
Peter Falk was known to TV viewers as the disheveled, endearing detective Columbo. Catherine Falk knew him as “Dad.”
“He was exactly the same on screen as off screen,” Catherine Falk said. “He was just this tender, really funny, goofy person.”
But Peter Falk’s life would take a tragic turn when he developed Alzheimer’s disease. His second wife isolated him, forcing his daughter to go to probate court just to see her father before he died.
“It cost me close to $100,000 in my money, not my dad’s money, my money to get in just before he passed away; that’s wrong,” Catherine Falk said.
Sen. Laura Woods, R-Jefferson County, agrees.
“The same program designed to protect these vulnerable citizens also exposes them to exploitation,” Woods said.
She’s introduced a bill — named after Peter Falk — that would prohibit guardians from cutting off contact with family.
“The guardian assumes all of the rights of the person that they are guardian for; so they can say, ‘No visitors, no phone calls, no mail,’ and really isolate the most vulnerable in our society, which are the elderly and adults with disabilities,” Woods said.
The Colorado Bar Association says the bill is unnecessary.
“A guardian is already charged to, and I quote, ‘At all times act in ward’s best interest and exercise reasonable care, diligence and prudence,'” a representative from the Colorado Bar Association said.
But Catherine Falk says when that doesn’t happen the only recourse is expensive litigation.
“The incapacitated person, the person the law intends to protect, very often ends up dying alone,” Catherine Falk said.
The bill passed unanimously out its first committee Wednesday but it still has a long way to go before becoming law. Catherine Falk is fighting for similar legislation in nine other states.