Brian Wilson’s Family Seeks to Place Him Under a Conservatorship


The family of Brian Wilson, the musical architect whose genius helped power the Beach Boys, is seeking to place him under a conservatorship following the death of his wife, Melinda, last month.

According to documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court earlier this week by lawyers representing the potential conservators, Mr. Wilson, 81, has “a major neurocognitive disorder,” and “is unable to properly provide for his own personal needs for physical health.” Melinda Wilson had previously provided care for her husband, but following her death on Jan. 30, the appointment of a conservator has become necessary, according to the petition filed on Wednesday.

In a statement. the family said that LeeAnn Hard, Mr. Wilson’s business manager, and Jean Sievers, his publicist and manager, would serve as co-conservators.

“This decision was made to ensure that there will be no extreme changes to the household and Brian and the children living at home will be taken care of and remain in the home where they are cared for,” the statement said.

In an email to The New York Times, Ms. Sievers said Mr. Wilson has been “diagnosed with dementia.” She said that as a co-conservator, she would “ensure that all of Brian’s daily living needs are satisfied and he continues to lead an active life.”

A hearing on the petition has been scheduled for April 30.

Mr. Wilson, a revered founder of the Beach Boys, is widely credited as a musical visionary who channeled an idealized notion of California into a chart-topping sound.

But the mental health challenges he faced along the way have also been well documented.

After suffering a nervous breakdown on a flight to Houston with the band in 1964, he abandoned touring to focus on recording, tapping into a period of explosive creativity that would help reshape the pop landscape with hits like “Good Vibrations.” At their height, the Beach Boys and their music flooded the Top 40 with melodies that captured the energy and culture of sunny, vibrant Southern California and music meticulously orchestrated in the studio. An American counterweight to the Beatles, the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

But even as Mr. Wilson worked, his struggles with mental illness worsened. He became increasingly withdrawn after an ambitious album, “Smile,” fell apart in 1967. He battled depression and was eventually diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which manifested itself in auditory hallucinations, among other symptoms. He also experimented with LSD and other drugs and began overeating and abusing alcohol. He receded from the public eye and remained bedridden for extended periods during the 1970s.

In the years that followed, Mr. Wilson began dating Melinda Kae Ledbetter, who would become his second wife. The couple met in a Los Angeles Cadillac dealership, where she was a saleswoman, in a scene dramatized in the 2014 movie “Love & Mercy.”

Ms. Wilson has said her future husband was struggling at the time she met him. Mr. Wilson had begun working with a psychotherapist, Eugene Landy, who is credited with helping yank his client from the depths of depression and substance abuse — and also blamed for inserting himself into many corners of Mr. Wilson’s creative and financial life.

With the help of his family and as a result of a court settlement, Mr. Wilson eventually broke from the psychotherapist. He married Melinda Ledbetter in 1995. They adopted five children, and Ms. Wilson went on to become her husband’s manager, allowing Mr. Wilson to embark on a career as a solo artist that had once seemed impossible.

Toward the end of her life, Ms. Wilson also served as her husband’s health care agent, according to court filings.

“Mrs. Wilson attended to Mr. Wilson’s daily living needs,” the document said, “as Mr. Wilson is unable to properly provide for his own personal needs for physical health, food, clothing, or shelter.”

In 2021, the Beach Boys signed a blockbuster deal with Iconic Artists Group, selling the majority of the band’s intellectual property rights, including their trademarks and the rights to much of their music. Later that year, Wilson also sold his songwriting rights to Universal Music. The transaction was confidential, but was revealed the following year when his former wife, Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford, sued, saying she was owed millions of dollars as a result of the terms of their divorce settlement.



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