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It’s not every day that financial advisers and accountants are called in to referee billion-dollar disputes over the ownership of a basketball team, but nevertheless there are plenty of valuable takeaways from the Sterlings’ duel in probate court.

When Shelly Sterling removed her husband, Donald Sterling, as co-trustee of the family trust that owns the Clippers, a heated court battle ensued to determine if Ms. Sterling was in the right or the wrong to do so. Shelly assumed control of the trust when doctors allegedly found Donald Sterling to be suffering from early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, according to an Associated Press report.

In the ruling, the judge said the doctors who diagnosed Donald’s mental incapacity acted appropriately, dismissing the billionaire’s claim that this was part of a conspiracy by Shelly and her attorney to gain control of the professional basketball team.

This was the subject of a recent Investment News article titled Donald Sterling’s battle holds a harsh lesson for advisers.” The article noted that “[I]t’s not every day that financial advisers and accountants are called in to referee billion-dollar disputes over the ownership of a basketball team…” Nonetheless, the article points to several valuable lessons from the jump ball in probate court.

While many create estate plans to guard assets in the event of their death, seldom do people contemplate the consequences and plan for incapacity. The article counsels you to add an incapacity clause in your trust documents, and to ensure there is a true measured trigger that will set it in motion. Your estate planning attorney will know how to draft that language so that it is a clear and precise standard to determine whether you are unfit to oversee the trust. This language will also describe the terms for a transfer of power.

Contact your estate planning attorney and take care of this issue now, before it turns into a bigger problem down the road, like it has for the Sterlings.

Reference: Investment News (July 30, 2014) “Donald Sterling’s battle holds a harsh lesson for advisers

For more information on asset preservation and estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.