All About Estates

Space Oddity: Why One of the Original Moonwalkers is Having to Sue his Children

This blog was written by Ronald Neal, student-at-law at de VRIES LITIGATION LLP.

Even those with the “right stuff” are not immune to elder abuse.  Such is the apparent case with Buzz Aldrin, a retired astronaut, lunar module pilot, and engineer who is now finding himself in the midst of a legal battle that may yet bring as many challenges and difficulty to him in his twilight years as his lunar landing did nearly 49 years ago.

You’ve Really Made the Grade

Buzz Aldrin (“Mr. Aldrin”), among many accomplishments, was one of the first two people to land and walk on the Moon. Following this monumental achievement, Mr. Aldrin enjoyed a successful post-NASA career as part entrepreneur, space exploration advocate, and pop culture icon. While it is outside this post’s gamut to canvass all of Mr. Aldrin’s accomplishments, suffice it to say that Mr. Aldrin has voiced versions of himself on both The Simpsons and Futurama.

Mr. Aldrin has three children: James Aldrin (“James”), Janice Aldrin (“Janice”) and Andrew Aldrin (“Andrew”).

Magnificent Desolation

On June 7, 2018, Mr. Aldrin filed a Verified Complaint in the Circuit Court of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Brevard County, Florida, which alleged that Andrew and a former business manager of Mr. Aldrin’s had, among other things:

  • Assumed control of Mr. Aldrin’s personal credit cards, bank accounts, trust money, space memorabilia, space artifacts, social media account and all elements of the “Buzz Aldrin brand”;
  • Assumed the role as contact points for Mr. Aldrin’s publicity, contacts, and clientele for their own dealing and enrichment; and
  • Effectively established a de facto guardianship over Mr. Aldrin.

Mr. Aldrin also accused Janice of not acting in his financial interests and conspiracy. Mr. Aldrin accused both Andrew and Janice of slandering him in public and/or to other individuals and small groups by stating that he had dementia and Alzheimer’s. Mr. Aldrin further accused Andrew and Janice of forbidding him to remarry and of specifically and deliberately undermining, bullying, or defaming all of his recent personal romantic relationships.

Mr. Aldrin’s complaint, as it turns out, was a response to Andrew and Janice having filed a petition in the Florida state court in May which claimed that Mr. Aldrin was incapacitated. Andrew and Janice sought to be appointed as Mr. Aldrin’s guardians as they claimed that Mr. Aldrin suffers from memory loss and confusion. Andrew and Janice further claimed in their petition that Mr. Aldrin had been associating with new individuals who were trying to alienate him from his family and friends and that Mr. Aldrin has been spending his assets at “an alarming rate”.

At time of writing, James had yet to enter the fray.

As a result of these dueling court filings, Mr. Aldrin is reportedly to undergo a court appointed competency evaluation later this week. It should be noted that Mr. Aldrin underwent a competency evaluation earlier this year under his own initiative. In that report, Mr. Aldrin scored “superior to normal” for his age on the various tests that were administered, and that report provided further that:

[It is believed that Mr. Aldrin] is perfectly capable of providing for his physical health needs, food, clothing and shelter, and is substantially able to manage his finances and resist fraud and undue influence…

Before notifying the public that there would be no further comment at this time, Andrew and Janice provided in a statement that:

If nothing else, our family is resilient and our ability to work together to solve problems and accomplish great things is strong…We love and respect our father very much and remain hopeful that we can rise above this situation and recover the strong relationship that built this foundation in the first place.

Check Ignition and may God’s Love be with You

While it is too early at this point to comment on the merits of this case, what is obvious are the difficulties that the Aldrin family are going to face in the coming weeks and months. Questions regarding an aging parent’s capacity and the possibility of having to seek answers through the legal system are difficult prospects for any family to face. The Aldrin family is not alone, however, as these issues confront countless families each year and the numbers of those impacted by questions of capacity are only expected to rise as the proportion of seniors within the population continues to grow. Though one ought to be ever hopeful of the future, one can perhaps be forgiven for thinking that such a state of affairs is indeed not out of this world.

About Justin de Vries
Justin has been consistently named as one of the Best Lawyers in Canada/Trusts & Estates. He is an accomplished litigator who has appeared before all levels of the Ontario Court & the Federal Court of Canada. Justin's areas of expertise include: estate, trust, and capacity litigation, as well as probate applications and estate administration. He regularly speaks on estate, trust and capacity issues. Email: jdevries@devrieslitigation.com

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