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Oil man's disappearance in Florida leads to guardianship petition

The Florida coastline south of West Palm Beach served as the stage last week for another dramatic chapter in the life of a wealthy oil man whose whereabouts are currently unknown. For years the oil magnate has battled bipolar disorder while simultaneously tangling with his uncle over profits from the sale of a lucrative energy business. Now, as his wife worries over his fate, the missing man's mother has petitioned for guardianship of his assets, valued at an estimated $75 million.

In recent years, the life of the missing oil man has been marked by episodes of psychological distress. His wife and mother jointly petitioned for an emergency order establishing a guardian for him for 90 days last summer. His wife hopes that the man's disappearance represents another psychological breakdown from which he will soon recover, rather than a sign that he may have been lost at sea.

With a substantial fortune at stake, a court order granting someone the legal authority to manage the missing man's finances was deemed to be necessary. Florida law offers special provisions for the appointment of a conservator when a person goes missing as the result of a psychological condition or under circumstances indicating the possibility of death. A conservator receives legal authority to manage the finances and dispose of the assets of the missing person.

A guardianship may grant the petitioner authority to control both a person's finances and significant decisions affecting the ward's personal life. For example, a guardian may be granted authority to make decisions relating to medical treatment, living arrangements and other social arrangements, such as marriage.

Reports suggest that the missing oil man's mother has only sought control over his finances. But if his whereabouts remain unknown, control over his financial and personal affairs may need to be turned over to his mother or to some other individual named as guardian.

Source:, "Oil tycoon known for philanthropy, erratic behavior vanishes during Florida boat trip," Kelli Kennedy, June 22, 2012

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