With the increase in lifespan and general health, we are also seeing an increase in the amount of competency lawsuits filed by nervous heirs. Generally, if a challenge arises to wills or trusts, it happens after the death of a person. However, as lifespans trend upwards, family members and others are looking to lock in their inheritances prior to death.
Recently, this has started to play out in the case of Sumner Redstone, the 92 year old controlling shareholder of Viacom and CBS. After he removed his longtime companion, Manuela Herzer, as his healthcare agent and kicked her out of his mansion, she sued to challenge his competency and the two are currently in settlement talks.
Dementia is the underlying driver in many of the cases, with over 5.3 million Americans over 65 living with the disease. That number is expected to rise in upcoming years, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Assessing someone’s competency in court is still a very inexact science, as there are a number of complex laws and inconsistent standards that courts are forced to wrangle with. While no uniform test exists, courts have used such tests as asking patients to count backwards from 100 by sevens, draw a clock showing a certain time, and name as many words as possible starting with a certain letter in the past.
Planning ahead and having good representation in the formation and defense of your estate and trust matters is a big first step in making sure you and your legacy are protected. If we can help, call our office today at 919-787-7711 or fill out the form on the side of this page to speak with one of our attorneys.