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Millionaire sports owner facing incompetency claim

When an older person changes his or her estate plan to partially or totally disinherit someone, there is a good chance that the move will lead to a court challenge. This is especially true if millions of dollars are at stake.

One common challenge to a will amendment is that the testator is not mentally competent, perhaps due to dementia. That appears to be the claim behind a court challenge that Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, is facing. According to a news report, his daughter and grandchildren are asking the court to undue a new succession plan that puts Benson’s wife in charge of the teams after his death.

Previously, the daughter and grandchildren were named as heirs of the teams. They contend that Benson’s wife used undue influence on him to force the change, and that Benson, 87, is not mentally competent.

This family dispute has led to a trio of lawsuits. The one currently underway is to determine Benson’s mental fitness. Among those testifying were three psychiatrists; one hired by each side, plus a third, neutral doctor ordered by the judge.

The judge closed the case to the public and issued a gag order, so little of the testimony is available. It is not certain if Benson himself will testify.

Proving undue influence or mental incompetence can be very difficult. The decision to disinherit a relative or friend can cause resentment, but everyone in Florida has the right to have their assets distributed in virtually any way they see fit.

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