With a decision by the court that he did have the mental capacity to amend his trust in 2015 and 2016, along with certain settlements, the very ugly public battle over the 95-year old media mogul has ended.
The court’s decision came two weeks after Sumner Redstone and several members of his family, including his daughter Shari Redstone, resolved a tangle of litigation against his former companion, Manuela Herzer.
The Hollywood Reporter explains, in the article “Sumner Redstone Had Capacity to Change Estate Plan, Judge Rules,” that after Herzer was thrown out of Redstone's mansion and removed as the person in control of his health care directive in 2015, she sued and claimed he didn’t possess the mental capacity to make decisions for himself and his business.
The fight included allegations of elder abuse against Herzer and claims that his daughter was manipulating her father, which have now been resolved. Herzer agreed to repay the $3.25 million she received in gifts and to state that she has no decision-making power concerning Redstone.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan formally concluded the fight over Redstone’s competence by confirming the validity of Redstone's current estate plan.
"Mr. Redstone had sufficient capacity to execute the Fortieth Amendment to and Restatement of the Sumner M. Redstone 2003 Trust dated July 23, 2003, and the Forty-First Partial Amendment thereto on their respective dates of execution, October 16, 2015, and May 20, 2016," writes Cowan, adding the changes "were not the product of undue influence, fraud, duress or mistake."
Judge Cowan’s decision is no guarantee that there won't be further disputes over what happens to the billionaire's estate after he dies, but it does lend support to Redstone in weathering future challenges. This is particularly important, because a guardian ad litem was appointed by the court in December to ensure that the proceedings were in Redstone's best interest.
It’s hard to imagine there won’t be litigation after he passes, but Mr. Redstone and his family will now be able to execute his estate plan as he wishes.
Reference: The Hollywood Reporter (January 23, 2019) “Sumner Redstone Had Capacity to Change Estate Plan, Judge Rules”