My dad is dying. This is a fact many American families will be sharing over the next few years as the last of the Greatest Generation and the first of the Baby Boomers ride off into the sunset. My father, Carl Westcott, is an 83-year-old veteran of the U.S. Army 101st Airborne and is mostly known in the business community for his successful entrepreneurial ventures. He was inducted into the Horatio Alger Society of Distinguished Americans in 2003, joining Oprah Winfrey, Henry Kissinger, and Michael Bloomberg. Not bad for a guy from Vicksburg, Mississippi, who grew up in a home without indoor plumbing and whose formal education was a GED.
Yet, like all human beings, age eventually caught up with him, rendering my dad elderly and frail. Adding to the burden, he also suffers from Huntington’s Disease, which he’s been battling since 2015, symptoms of which include dementia. It is in this vulnerable state that he found himself ensnared in a heart-wrenching real estate contract that would soon pit our family against international popstar Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, whose stage name is Katy Perry.
On July 18, 2020, in the aftermath of a serious back surgery, while experiencing extreme pain and under the influence of opioid painkillers and numerous drugs for pain and mental issues, my father sat in his dream home, which he had bought just two months prior as his intended final primary residence. On this day, in my father’s dream house and under the influence of pain medication, he formed a contract to sell the home to Bernie Gudvi, an agent for the real buyer, Perry.
Approximately two days later, after the fog of the opioid painkillers lifted, he realized what had happened and acted to cancel a contract that had been signed while he was not of sound mind.
My father wrote an email to Katy Perry’s agents explaining the circumstances under which he had signed the contract. Brushing aside my father’s plea, his acknowledgment of his vulnerability, and his stated inability to properly consent at the time of signing, Perry did not care. Instead, she demanded the sale of the property and threatened to sue if my father did not comply.
As the legal battle dragged on for three long years, my father’s health deteriorated, leaving him bedridden. During a time when we should be cherishing our remaining moments with him, we find ourselves entangled in a fight against Perry’s swarm of lawyers to preserve our family’s legacy.
When his time comes, I want my father to be remembered for the years he spent serving his country, his numerous successful businesses, his robust family life, and his kind, caring heart. I don’t want him to be remembered as Katy Perry’s latest victim — he wouldn’t even be the first to die during a real estate battle with her.
Sadly, this story will be familiar to many sons and daughters. For our family, this tragic incident is no longer just a personal ordeal. It symbolizes the broader challenges faced by our aging society. I believe it is of the utmost importance that the law recognizes the vulnerability of elderly citizens and extends its protection in the wake of serious medical events and episodes of mental illness. Far too often, the unscrupulous take advantage of the elderly in moments of weakness or infirmity.
Nevertheless, the notoriety that her involvement tragically brings to my father’s condition can benefit all of us by underscoring the necessity of prioritizing compassion and fairness for the elderly in the law. We must ensure their voices are heard. My father has no voice and cannot speak clearly anymore because his mind has left him. What remains is a frail body and the beautiful, weathered soul of a man who lived a full life. My family will speak for him and for all others who find an elder family member in a similar situation.
Ultimately, we all share this common destiny: to grow old and infirm, and eventually depart from this world. I call upon California and all other state legislatures around the country to pass the Protecting Elder Realty for Retirement Years (PERRY) Act to give any party in a contract for sale of a personal residence, in which one party is over the age of 75, at least a 72-hour cool-down period in which either party has the right to rescind the contract. This would protect senior citizens from making an irreversible mistake during moments of medical vulnerability and would give their loved ones time to make sure they are making the right choice.
Let us treat our elders with the same courtesy and respect we hope to receive when we too are at the end of our lives. By protecting our elders and cherishing their contributions, we sow the seeds of a compassionate society for their grandchildren and our own.