Sumner Redstone Had Capacity to Change Estate Plan, Judge Rules

Sumner Redstone-Getty-P-2018
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The ugly public legal battle over Sumner Redstone's estate plans has come to an end, as a Los Angeles judge on Wednesday ruled the 95-year-old mogul had the mental capacity necessary to amend his trust in 2015 and 2016.

The decision comes two weeks after Redstone and several members of his family, including CBS and Viacom vice chairman Shari Redstone, settled a slurry of litigation with his former companion Manuela Herzer. After Herzer was kicked out of Redstone's mansion and removed as the person in control of his health care directive in 2015, she sued and claimed he lacked the capacity to make decisions for himself and his business. The disputes, which also included elder abuse allegations against Herzer and claims that Shari was manipulating her father, have now been resolved. Herzer agreed to repay $3.25 million she had received in gifts and to acknowledge that she has no decision-making power concerning Redstone. 

On Wednesday, Los Angeles Superior Court judge David Cowan formally ended the fight over the mogul'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." (Read the full order, below.)

While the decision doesn't guarantee there won't be any more fighting over what happens to the billionaire's estate after he dies, it does provide support to Redstone in withstanding future challenges — especially since a guardian ad litem was appointed by the court in December to ensure the proceedings were in Redstone's best interest.

“After three years of litigation, Mr. Redstone is grateful for today’s court confirmation of his capacity to execute his estate plan, and of his free will in doing so," his attorney Gabrielle Vidal said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "Now all he needs is a Patriots win.”