Person holding an elderly woman's hand

The Sopranos: A Case Study in Elder Law

William D. Stilley, Esq. Jan. 27, 2021

The Sopranos is one of the greatest television shows to ever air. Its explorations of the American Dream, and family (blood or otherwise) forever changed television. But there is another issue it explores that is of particular interest to me as an elder law attorney. In the first season, the show’s main character Tony Soprano is dealing with his mother Livia and the various problems she is experiencing associated with aging and dementia. Things reach a fever pitch when she runs over a friend of hers with her car, and sets her kitchen on fire while cooking. Tony and his wife Carmela know that Livia needs more help than they can give her. In a tense conversation between Tony and Livia, Livia reveals that she has been giving away her nice jewelry, along with other household items of value. Tony explodes at her and tells her she needs to go to an assisted living facility named Green Grove. Livia, ever the stubborn one, refuses outright to go and breaks down crying. Tony then exclaims “Fine, then I will go to court and get a Durable Power of Attorney over you and I will place you [in Green Grove]”.

Please note: This clip contains strong language

The situation Tony finds himself in is an all too common one. Parents and loved ones deteriorate as they age, and the family is left wondering what to do. When someone finds themselves in this situation, often times the best thing one can do is offer their loved one an ultimatum. Things can go the easy way, or the hard way. The easy way is when the loved one acquiesces to their children’s/caregivers’ wishes and allows either home health care services, or agrees to move to an assisted living facility/care center. The hard way is the way that Tony alluded to in the aforementioned clip. But he gets something wrong. Tony says he will get a “Durable Power of Attorney” over his mother. The real move in this instance would be gaining guardianship and conservatorship over the person in question.

A guardianship is a declaration by the court allowing someone to make personal and healthcare decisions for someone. This differs from a Durable Power of Attorney as it is applied by the court rather than voluntarily entered into by the person in question. With a guardianship, the appointed guardian can make decisions like involuntarily placing someone by court order in an assisted living facility, and make other healthcare decisions as well. A conservatorship covers financial decisions, allowing the appointee to take charge of the disabled/ incapacitated individual’s financial assets.

It should be noted that this process can be expensive, public, confrontational, and ongoing. It should also be pointed out to the individual that a guardianship can even authorize the calling of law enforcement to forcefully remove the person from their home. It goes without saying that this is not an ideal course of action for any of the parties involved.

These situations are why it is important to retain counsel. Elder law attorneys such as myself are experienced in the delicate nature of these situations. Loved ones aging and deteriorating is a very emotional issue, and often times its best to have an outside voice advising you. At Stilley Law Office, we provide guardianship and conservatorship services, as well as Powers of Attorney to help avoid these situations. Please do not wait until there is a crisis to make plans for the future. Call Stilley Law Office, LLC at 816-325-3713 and let us help you today!