Phoebe Hearst Cooke care to remain “in the family”

Family will handle care for aging Hearst heir
Phoebe Hearst Cooke and her estate will be cared for by her twin brother and his son
Nick Wilson
June 3, 2009
The Tribune/
The supervision of Phoebe Hearst Cooke’s care and estate is now in the hands of her twin brother and her nephew.

Judge Teresa Estrada-Mullaney ruled Wednesday that George Hearst Jr. and his son, George Hearst III, are the new conservators for the 81-year-old granddaughter of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst.

Estrada-Mullaney ruled after brief comments from attorneys that Cooke’s cognitive state and paranoia make her vulnerable to fraud and undue influence.

Cooke’s family members will oversee her personal care and fortune, estimated to be worth $2 billion.

“The judge considered a lot of evidence submitted prior to the trial and made the proper ruling,” said John Ronca, an attorney for the Hearsts.

Cooke withdrew her opposition to family members’ petition for conservatorship prior to Wednesday’s brief trial, said Rita Neal, the lawyer representing the county, which had been acting as her temporary legal guardian.

Estrada-Mullaney allowed a transition period for the transfer of the conservatorship of Cooke’s finances. Her family members will take over on July 1.

But Cooke’s personal care — including food, clothing, shelter and medical needs — was immediately assigned to George Hearst Jr. and his son.

George Hearst Jr. said he did not want to comment when asked for his reaction to the ruling.

Phoebe Hearst did not take a call from The Tribune at her residence in Shell Beach on Wednesday.

The judge said the family’s supervision was determined to be the least restrictive alternative for her care.

The details of where Cooke might live and how she’ll be taken care of weren’t discussed in court Wednesday.

The move to place Cooke’s estate under conservatorship began last July, when a petition was filed and granted to place Jeff Hamm, the public guardian of the county, as a temporary conservator of Cooke’s estate.

The petition alleged that Cooke had written multiple six-figure checks to various individuals as gifts, as well as a check to a car dealer for more than $1.9 million to handle her finances.

She also had given a key to her house in Woodside to an acquaintance and several valuable paintings appeared to be missing, the petition stated.

This caused the family to believe she was unable to resist undue influence and fraud regarding her finances.