What happens when a billionaire decides to leave everything to a new, young wife? A healthy dose of Chaos – and legal fees- are likely not far behind. New Orleans Saints owner and 87 year old billionaire Tom Benson changed his mind last year and decided to leave his empire to new wife Gayle and cut out his ex and two children. The displaced heirs quickly moved to have him declared incompetent. The case got even crazier and was moved to federal court – but in Contra Costa County, I frequently see cases like this (albeit involving considerably less assets) – and the question becomes – is it financial elder abuse? Or did the new heir do something spectacular to deserve such a boon?
In California, if a situation is determined to involve elder abuse, the consequences can be severe. And typically, when people make surprising and seemingly unnatural distribution decisions (like cutting out family members), “undue influence” may likely be involved. California Probate Code 86 defines undue influence in the probate code and it refers to California Welfare And Institutions Code Section 15610.70, which provides four factors:
1. Elderly and/or vulnerable adult
2. Control by the alleged abuser over the victim
3. Specific actions taken by alleged abuser
4. Inequity of result
If you suspect a family member or friend is in a situation like this, it’s always best to alert other close family members and determine if anything can be done without involving a lawyer. But when things cannot be resolved peacefully, a lawyer is often necessary to protect the rights of the family, and the safety and well being of the person in question. If you suspect you may have a case, or would like more information, I specialize in Elder Abuse Matters in Contra Costa County. Call the Law Offices of Matthew B. Talbot at 925-322-1763 for your free 30 minute consultation.
Read more about the Benson case here: http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2015/04/tom_benson_family_feud_federal.html