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Family of NBA, NFL owner sues over change in estate plan

A testator making significant changes to his or her estate plan late in life is often a cause for concern, especially for beneficiaries whose share of the estate has been reduced or eliminated. They may wonder if a new beneficiary is manipulating the testator, whose mental capacity may be compromised by dementia or other illnesses.

In Florida law, lack of capacity is a reason to challenge the validity of a will in probate. Often, children of the deceased will claim that their parent lacked the mental capacity to amend their estate plan, but were being used by another party, perhaps a caretaker or spouse seeking to enrich themselves.

That is what the family of New Orleans Pelicans and Saints owner Tom Benson is alleging, after Benson announced that he was leaving ownership in the teams to his wife. Benson’s estate plan had previously named his granddaughter as heir to the franchises.

The day after the announcement, the granddaughter, her mother and brother sued Benson, claiming that he lacks the capacity to manage his personal affairs. They accuse Benson’s wife, whom he married in 2004, of manipulating him into changing his estate plan.

Prior to the suit, Benson, 87, released a statement describing the change in plans. He denied having any health problems besides a bad knee.

No family wants to go through strife following the death of a loved one, but litigation may be necessary if you believe the will does not reflect the way the decedent actually wanted to distribute his or her estate.

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