Jay Leno files for conservatorship for wife Mavis, who has dementia

Jay Leno and Mavis Leno attend "Jay Leno’s Garage" series launch party at The Press Lounge at Ink48 in New York.
Jay Leno and Mavis Leno attend “Jay Leno’s Garage” series launch party in 2015 in New York.
(Charles Sykes / Invision / Associated Press)

Comedian Jay Leno is seeking to become conservator over wife Mavis Leno’s affairs because she has dementia.

Leno filed court documents Friday to ask a family court judge to grant the conservatorship so he can structure a living trust and other estate plans to make sure that his 77-year-old wife has “managed assets sufficient to provide for her care” should he die before her, according to a copy of the petition filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

“Unfortunately, Mavis has been progressively losing capacity and orientation to space and time for several years,” the petition said. “Jay is fully capable of continuing support for Mavis’s physical and financial needs, as he has throughout their marriage.”


The filing said her “current condition renders her incapable of executing the estate plan.” The court documents said she was being treated for “dementia and mood disorder.”

The couple has been married 43 years.

Leno, through a spokesperson, declined to comment on Saturday.

Jay Leno on set of "You Bet Your Life," in Pacoima.  (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
Jay Leno on the set of the game show “You Bet Your Life” in Pacoima in 2021.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

It was unclear when Mavis Leno was first diagnosed with the disease, but a doctor’s report from November, filed as part of the court proceedings, said she suffered with impairments to her memory, ability to concentrate and use of reason.

The documents said a conservatorship was needed to allow Jay Leno to execute estate plans, “which will provide for Mavis and Mavis’s brother [who is] her sole living heir aside from Jay.” Leno, who is 73, and Mavis Leno do not have children. They live in Beverly Hills.

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“Jay Leno has always handled the couple’s finances through the term of their 43-year marriage, and will continue to do so until his passing,” the petition said.

TMZ first reported the conservatorship petition.


When he was the popular host of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” which ran on NBC for about 20 years, Jay Leno would frequently and lovingly mention Mavis.

Throughout their marriage, Mavis Leno independently pursued her own progressive causes, including fighting a proposed California ballot proposition against affirmative action in the mid-1990s.

She was a board member of the Feminist Majority Foundation and chairwoman of its Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls to ensure that “the women and girls of Afghanistan are not forgotten,” according to the group’s website. The foundation’s campaign for Afghan women was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

Shortly after the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, Mavis and Jay Leno donated $100,000 as seed money for the Feminist Majority Foundation’s global women’s rights program.

Jay Leno
Jay Leno at NBCUniversal’s Summer TCA Tour in Beverly Hills in 2015.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision / Associated Press)

“She is someone with a strong sense of purpose, compassion and curiosity,” author Sue Smalley wrote about a decade ago in the Los Angeles Times after interviewing Mavis Leno and her famous husband. “She arrives first, on time [and] doesn’t need hair or makeup.”


The couple met at L.A.’s famed Comedy Store in 1976.

“I always had this idea that I would never get married,” she told People magazine in a 1987 interview. “But with Jay, I began to realize that this was the first time I was ever with someone where I had a perfect, calm sense of having arrived at my destination.”

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Separately, she described meeting Leno in an interview with The Times.

“It was in January. ... I thought, ‘Holy s--t! That comedian is gorgeous!” Mavis Leno recalled in a 2014 interview, saying friends had encouraged her to “ ‘hang out at the Comedy Store and the Improv — you’ll meet people who can give you jobs.’ ”

“The first time I went, they sat us front row center. That means you’re this far from the comic. And there was Jay,” she said.

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Sept. 16, 2014

Later that evening, she went to the bathroom, which was near an area where the comedians hung out between their sets.

“When I came out of the bathroom, he said, ‘Are you that girl in front?’ ” Mavis Leno recalled. “I said, ‘Yes, that was me.’ ”

Staff writer Stacy Perman contributed to this report.