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Jay Leno granted conservatorship over wife’s estate amid her dementia diagnosis

The former "Tonight Show" host filed for conservatorship over his wife Mavis' estate in January.
/ Source: TODAY

Jay Leno has been granted a conservatorship of his wife's estate as she continues to decline following a diagnosis of advanced dementia.

A judge granted the conservatorship April 9, 2024, a little more than three months after the comedian and TV personality filed for a conservatorship over her estate on Jan. 26 in Los Angeles.

Mavis Leno, who married the former "Tonight Show" host in 1980, "sometimes does not" recognize her husband, according to a filing earlier this month by her court-appointed counsel, Ronald Ostrin, obtained by TODAY.com.

“According to her neurologist, Dr. Hart Cohen, she has advanced dementia, sometimes does not know her husband, Jay, nor her date of birth,” the filing stated. “She has a lot of disorientation, will ruminate about her parents who have both passed and her mother who died about 20 years ago.”

The filing stated that Dr. Hart Cohen has been treating Mavis Leno since she was involved in a car accident in 2018.

"According to Dr. Cohen, Mr. Leno loves his wife very much, and waited to bring this matter out of respect to her," Ostrin stated in the filing. "He said that Mr. Leno was 'such a nice man and treats (Mavis) like gold.'"

Ostrin stated in the filing that he believed that Jay Leno's petition for conservatorship should be approved in order to "protect" Mavis Leno and to "preserve her dignity."

"Ms. Leno consents to the petition, and it is the least restrictive alternative and most protective of Ms. Leno. The main purpose of the petition is to be able to protect Mavis if something happened to Mr. Leno, but otherwise provide the least disturbance to Ms. Leno’s lifestyle and to preserve her dignity and ensure her safety," Ostrin stated.

Leno said his wife was “substantially unable to manage his or her financial resources,” according to court documents obtained by TODAY.com at the time.

The documents included a capacity declaration, which according to the?Judicial Branch of California, is a form completed by either a physician, psychologist or religious healing practitioner to inform the court of the “mental capacity of a potential conservatee.”?

Mavis Leno’s doctor stated that she “suffers from dementia,” according to the form.

Jay Leno was seeking approval from the court to implement an estate plan which he believes his wife would execute “if she had the capacity to do so,” according to the documents.

His petition in January stated that Jay Leno “wishes to create a trust to hold each of his and Mavis’s one-half interest in their community property.”

“Jay desires to execute an estate plan, including a revocable trust and will, which will provide for Mavis and Mavis’s brother and her sole living heir aside from Jay,” the documents stated.

The court documents also stated on several occasions that Jay Leno has handled both of their finances throughout their marriage of more than four decades.

Private Unveiling Of The Meyers Manx Electric Automobile
Jay and Mavis Leno at Little Beach House Malibu on August 8, 2022 in Malibu, California. Michael Tullberg / Getty Images

Jay Leno’s own health as been in the headlines in recent years after he?suffered?burns from a garage fire?and?broke?several bones following?a motorcycle accident.

However, he has not spoken publicly about his wife’s health, nor specified the type of dementia his wife has. His petition in January stated that she has been “progressively losing capacity and orientation to space and time for several years.”

What to know about dementia

The?Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?states that dementia is a general term for “the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions,” rather than a specific disease itself. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2014, there was an estimated 5 million adults over the age of 65 who had dementia. The?Mayo Clinic?also reports that between 5 and 6 percent of individuals with dementia will develop symptoms?before 65, which is referred to as early-onset dementia.

Symptoms of dementia include struggles with attention, communication, memory, reasoning and visual perception. Common signs of dementia are forgetting names of family members or friends, getting lost in a neighborhood familiar to the individual and the inability to independently finish tasks.

The?Alzheimer’s Association?reports that dementia is caused by diseases that damage brain cells, which interferes with their ability to communicate with one another. When this communication is disrupted, it causes alterations to our behavior, communication, feelings and thoughts.?

Risk factors for dementia include age and genetics, but research has suggested that a healthy diet —?including the Mediterranean diet?— exercise and refraining from smoking can help decrease the risk. For early-onset dementia,?risk factors?include depression, diabetes, heart disease, social isolation, vitamin D deficiency and more.

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