Sumner Redstone, the 93 year old media mogul who has infamously alienated both family and friends over the past few years while determining the terms of administration for his estate, added another dramatic chapter last month when he made claims of elder abuse against two of his former girlfriends. The billionaire business man has claimed that his two former girlfriends conspired to take advantage of his wealth and now owe him over $150 million dollars, given in gifts over a period of years.
Some of the gifts to the women included designer clothing and bags, access to any of Redstone’s credit cards, vehicles and real estate located throughout the world. In addition to the gifts given while alive, both women stood to inherit nearly $23 million dollars each, before Redstone altered the terms of his will when he evicted the women from his home. There were numerous tax implications that came with the gifts given by Redstone that left him in financial trouble.
Last year, Redstone’s mental competency was called into question when one of his girlfriends, Manuela Herzer, filed a lawsuit against Redstone following her eviction from his home. The former girlfriend then petitioned a court to regain decision making power of Redstone’s estate and to regain what he originally set aside for her in his will. Herzer made allegations of financial abuse by his family members, however, her case was thrown out after testimony by Redstone was released from a deposition hearing proving that Herzer maintaining decisionmaking power would not be in his best interest.
Signs of Elder Abuse
Sumner Redstone’s situation exemplifies many of the signs that may raise questions of elder abuse. Financial elder abuse warning signs include: taking money or property without the elder’s permission, forging the elder’s signature, coercing the elder to add the perpetrator into their will or to sign over rights to be their power of attorney using undue influence, as well as gaining the elder’s trust in order to then further exploit them.
A court will generally look to the mental competency and vulnerability of the elder adult in order to determine if elder abuse occurred. However, Redstone has demonstrated his mental capacity in a number of hearings and has several willing and helpful assistants throughout his life who are able to isolate him from some of these scenarios and educate him on specific financial transactions and their tax implications. While it is evident that his relationships were unique, it can be understood how elder abuse is suspect in his situation.