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Tom Benson wins 1 battle over his estate plan, 2 more to go

Tom Benson, the man who owns sports franchises and other businesses in Texas and Louisiana, has been found competent to run his empire. That ruling came as a result of his daughter and her children trying to get the man declared incompetent in court so that the changes he made to his estate plan six months ago wouldn't be upheld.

Six months ago, Benson opted to put his current wife first in line to control his empire. He disowned his daughter and her two children. The disowned heirs claimed that Benson wasn't mentally able to control his estate and that his new wife was manipulating him to change his estate plan.

Benson was evaluated by three psychiatrists. Each side chose a psychiatrist. Those two psychiatrists chose the third. After eight days of testimony, the judge issued the ruling that Benson is mentally competent to make his own decisions.

Even if Benson's estate plan remains as it is now, the disowned heirs will still stand to inherit millions. Another battle is looming in federal court because Benson is attempting to change assets in irrevocable trusts for his two grandchildren and his daughter. His goal is to remove their stakes of ownership in his businesses and sports teams.

A third court battle is ongoing in a Texas probate court over another trust involving his daughter. That case doesn't involve the sports teams, but it does involve business interests for Texas businesses.

The Benson case shows how much contention changes to estate plans can cause. Still, it is often better to deal with the contention while you are living so that you can show you were competent to make the choices you made. If you have concerns about your estate plan, today is the day to review the plan, find out if you need to make changes and execute those changes while you still can.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Judge Rules Saints, Pelicans Owner Tom Benson Competent to Run Businesses," June 18, 2015

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