Berge & Berge, LLP Blog

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mental Competency, Hollywood Style

By now, many are aware of the raging court battle involving media mogul Sumner Redstone, the ailing 92-year old whose net worth is valued somewhere in the $5.5 billion range. So far, the Hollywood heavyweight has reigned victorious -- at least with regard to the contentious mental competency battle initiated by a former lover who recently found herself completely ousted from his Will and health care power of attorney.

While the glitz and glamour of the Redstone case makes for heightened intrigue, the case presents an all-too-common scenario families across California face as their loved ones transition to their 80’s and 90’s. Fortunately, proper planning for mental incompetency can help avoid the litigious -- and embarrassing -- plight of the Redstone family, as well as ultimately save thousands of dollars in court fees and costs.

In the Redstone case, Sumner was believed to be under the auspices of dementia when he overturned a $150 million bequest to his former girlfriend -- which also included a $20 million Beverly Hills mansion. Upon this disinheritance, the former flame understandably filed a lawsuit not only challenging Mr. Redstone’s mental capacity to make changes to his estate plan, but against his children for intentionally interfering with her eventual inheritance.

The mental competency component of the case was ultimately decided in favor of Mr. Redstone, and was based on the court’s review of 18-minutes of videotaped testimony by Mr. Redstone, apparently revealing he was in top mental shape. However, the “intentional interference” portion of the case is slated to continue, pitting the former lover against Redstone’s adult children in a battle over nearly $200 million.

Executing a durable power of attorney, naming trusted individuals as agents, is one way to avoid the legal ramifications of the onset of dementia. Using a power of attorney, an agent may act in a fiduciary capacity on behalf of the principal, even if that person is enduring mental incompetency. Of course, the agent may only ever act in the principal’s best interests, and maintains a fiduciary role at all times. With this simple document in place, families can avoid months (or even years) of litigation, and help preserve the family’s assets and reputation in the process.

Contact an experienced estate planning attorney today!

If you would like to learn more about planning ahead for mental incapacity, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Berge & Berge, LLP today: 408-389-6980.  

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