Before he died, the owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans gave millions of dollars of property to his daughter and her children, but they were not included in his last will and testament.
The last will of multi-millionaire Tom Benson, who owned several professional sports teams and other businesses, did not include his daughter and her children, according to an article from KPVI, “Though excluded from his will, Tom Benson's daughter and grandchildren received much from family patriarch.”
Following Benson's death, court records indicate that his third wife Gayle became the sole beneficiary of an estate controlling New Orleans' NFL and NBA franchises, as well as the Dixie Brewing Co. There were other valuable businesses or properties in the estate: three car dealerships, the site of Benson Tower and Champions Square, a $3.6 million Uptown mansion, a racing stable and a parking lot used by fans attending Saints or Pelicans games.
As the will reads, daughter Renee Benson, granddaughter Rita LeBlanc, and grandson Ryan LeBlanc received nothing further. They were parties in a complex, two-year court battle that began in 2015 after a falling out with Benson. The three were left with control of three car dealerships, bank branches and a hunting ranch in and around San Antonio.
Louisiana law allows relatives up to five years to decide whether they want to challenge the validity of a will. The allegations are typically that the deceased was either mentally incapacitated or subject to undue influence in making the will.
However, the estate planning attorney who helped Benson prepare his will, Paul Cordes Jr., said he’s confident the document would survive a challenge. Benson’s will was drafted only a few weeks after a New Orleans judge found Benson was mentally fit enough to handle his own affairs, which Renee and her children had denied in a lawsuit filed in 2015.
Although Gayle is the sole beneficiary of her late husband's estate, Saints and Pelicans President Dennis Lauscha is the administrator. All of Benson's property was placed in a trust, the governing terms of which haven't been made public.
When Gayle passes away—she’s now 71—it is likely that there will be trust rules that will direct the line of succession. Gayle has no children of her own. But we won’t know what those rules are unless very specific circumstances occur. Sounds like Benson did some good estate planning.
Reference: KPVI (March 19, 2018) “Though excluded from his will, Tom Benson's daughter and grandchildren received much from family patriarch”