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As inheritence dispute is waged, fate of a city and family hang in the balance

Nearly every family experiences times when family members argue or disagree about certain issues. In cases where there is a family-owned business, arguments about the future of a business can harm relationships and also have significant financial repercussions.

The city of New Orleans has become the scene of a major inheritance dispute pitting the family members of Tom Benson, the 87-year-old owner of the city's professional football and basketball teams, against one another. The dispute began brewing roughly a decade ago, when Benson married his third wife who is nearly 20 years his junior.

Prior to Benson's third marriage, his daughter Renee and her two children, Rita and Ryan, were considered the heirs apparent to the Benson fortune which is estimated to be worth approximately $1.9 billion. However, the 87 year old shocked fans and family members alike when recently announced that he was leaving ownership of the professional sports teams to his current wife.

In response, Benson's daughter and grandchildren filed a lawsuit in which they assert that the senor Benson is mentally unfit. Benson's daughter has also requested she be appointed her father's legal guardian to protect his "property and person."

Prior to Benson’s announcement, his granddaughter held a leadership position within the Saints organization. However, in 2012, it’s reported that her grandfather forced her to “take a sabbatical…because of mistreatment of co-workers and her work ethic.”

While many, including Benson and his current wife, dispute claims of the octogenarian’s failing mental fitness; he was recently evaluated by three different doctors. Much hinges on the results of these evaluations which will not only significantly impact the futures and finances of individual family members, but also potentially the city of New Orleans.

Ohio business owners who plan to leave a family business to surviving heirs would be wise to take steps to carefully plan the succession of a business. In cases where family members disagree about business ownership, legal action may be taken.

Source: The New York Times, “His Heirs’ Expectations: Tom Benson and His Family Are Locked in Inheritance Dispute Over Saints and Pelicans,” Ken Belson, March 6, 2015 

The New Orleans Advocate, "Filings in lawsuit on Tom Benson’s mental health will be withheld from public," Ramon Antonio Vargas, April 26, 2015

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