Tom Benson's Estate - Lessons on Competency and Blended Families

On Thursday, a judge in New Orleans found billionaire New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans owner Tom Benson competent to handle his affairs and blocked his estranged children and grandchildren from taking over management of his estate. Benson’s children had argued that he was being unduly influenced by his wife. Benson had previously announced that he planned to leave ownership of the Saints and Pelicans to his current wife. This story highlights several problems that can exist in estate planning. First, dealing with a blended family is often a perilous path. Second, dealing with the question of competency and undue influence can also raise some issues.To execute a will or trust, an individual must be competent. While the law may vary from state to state, generally there are several components. A person must be able to:

  • Identify your nearest living relatives.

  • Understand the nature and extent of their property.

  • Understand how it is being disposed of according to the will or trust.

Normally, less mental capacity is required to execute a will or trust than any other legal instrument. In fact, there are examples of individuals who have been put under conservatorship and/or guardianship because of incompetency, yet they were still deemed sufficiently competent to execute a will.It can be a tough call in determining whether or not an individual is competent to sign a will, trust or any other legal document. However, if you start early and put in place proper precautions, you can help protect yourself and your loved ones from these types of situations.