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Intense estate planning litigation surrounds Sumner Redstone

A great deal of media attention in Ohio and across the nation has centered on Sumner Redstone, an aging media mogul who is worth an estimated $5 billion. One lawsuit aimed at gaining access to a portion of Redstone's fortune was recently dismissed, but a new legal challenge is just getting started. As the physical and mental health of the billionaire declines, several parties are trying to gain control over his vast fortune by attacking his existing estate planning measures.

Redstone created a trust to act as owner of 80 percent of his company known as National Amusements. That company owns 80 percent of the voting stock for both CBS and Viacom, two of the nation's biggest media outlets. The remaining 20 percent of National Amusements is owned by Sumner's adult daughter, who was previously estranged from her father.

One of the primary trustees was the chief executive of Viacom, who has been a long time friend and confidant of Redstone. However, Redstone recently ousted him from the trust, and added various family members instead. That has led to a lawsuit in which Redstone's mental capacities have been challenged. It is asserted that Redstone's daughter is manipulating her father to try and gain a greater share of his fortune.

As this battle continues, most Ohio families find little in common with the estate planning sagas facing the Redstone clan. That said, it is not uncommon for elderly people to be placed under pressure to make changes to their estate plan as they reach the later stages of life. There have been multiple cases in which an elderly party has been convinced or coerced into leaving significant sums to caregivers, while cutting family members out of their inheritance. Estate planning litigation is an issue for all types of families, not just those fighting over a $5 billion fortune.

Source: The New York Times, "In Sumner Redstone Affair, His Decline Upends Estate Planning", James B. Stewart, June 2, 2016

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