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Donald Sterling case underscores the need for incapacity planning

Celebrity deaths and estate battles often provide valuable jumping-off points into discussions of important estate planning topics that may be relevant to readers of this blog. In today’s post, however, we see that there are sometimes valuable estate-planning lessons to be learned even from celebrities who are still alive.

According to recent news reports, former L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling was diagnosed with mental incapacity after displaying signs of Alzheimer’s disease. As a result, his estranged wife was able to have him removed as a co-trustee of the basketball team and arrange for its sale over his objections.

Sterling reportedly tried to stop the $2 billion sale from going through, claiming that his diagnosis was part of a ploy to give his wife control over the team. However, a judge in California dismissed that claim and ruled in favor of Sterling’s wife.

The Sterling case provides a valuable reminder that estate planning is not just about money -- it is also about planning for how your affairs will be managed in the event that you become unable to manage them yourself.

A lawyer with experience in estate planning can help clients ensure that their wishes will be known and carried out should they become incapacitated by an accident, illness or other debilitating event. This can involve naming a trusted individual to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf, as well as setting specific parameters dictating the circumstances under which that person’s decision-making authority should go into effect. Your estate planning lawyer can also work with your lawyer to address how you would like medical decisions to be handled if you become incapacitated.

Source: Crain's Wealth, "The lesson from Donald Sterling? Plan for incapacity," Darla Mercado, Aug. 5, 2014

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