One of the biggest media moguls of today took his estate planning efforts seriously. Sumner Redstone, the 92-year-old controlling shareholder of both CBS and Viacom, has a family trust in place to protect his interests in the event of death or incapacity.
Redstone's ex-girlfriend, Manuela Herzer, served as his sole agent in an advance health care directive until October of last year. Herzer claims that Redstone is not mentally competent to make decisions. She has filed a lawsuit to challenge Redstone's current health care representative and have herself reinstated in that capacity. Reportedly, Herzer had a psychiatrist of her choosing examine Redstone in January, but the findings have been sealed from the public.
According to Redstone's family, his long-time personal physicians and a geriatric psychiatrist who examined the media mogul in October, Redstone is mentally competent and not incapacitated. However, a final decision about Redstone's mental capacity will be decided in a California courtroom. On Monday, Feb. 29, an L.A. superior court judge ordered the case to trial.
Sources indicate that Manuela Herzer faces a tough battle. Any testimony delivered by Redstone's long-time physicians will likely carry a lot of weight in the eyes of the law. Additionally, the timing of Redstone's examination by his own geriatric psychiatrist could work in his favor. This psychiatrist examined Redstone when the mogul signed his estate-planning documents last October. This could indicate that he was indeed mentally sound when he made the latest changes to his estate plan.
One thing this case has already shown is the enduring power of sound estate planning. With his family trust, which was created more than a decade ago, Redstone has taken the proper steps to ensure his legacy will remain in good hands despite the outcome of Herzer's legal attempts. There can be little doubt that Redstone's estate planning attorneys served him well in his efforts to protect his estate.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "New Redstone competency report filed in court -- and sealed," Edvard Pettersson and Christopher Palmeri, Bloomberg, Feb. 19, 2016