The wealthy elderly can become targets of elder financial abuse, no matter how rich and famous they may be. Last October, the media mogul and former Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, aged 93, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against two former girlfriends over civil claims that include elder abuse. According to the New York Times
, Mr. Redstone seeks approximately $150 million that his lawyers say he gave to his former girlfriends Manuela Herzer and Sydney Holland. Redstone claims he was forced to borrow $100 million from his shares of CBS Corporation
to cover tax obligations on gifts he gave to the women.
Mr. Redstone’s family claimed that he was mentally and physically unfit to make important financial decisions, reported WCSH
, and accused the two women of maliciously manipulating the aged billionaire. “Herzer was removed of her duty as Redstone’s health care agent last year, where she then tried to challenge the decision by also claiming that Redstone was not competent enough to make such a decision. The two women have now changed their tune, however, saying that Redstone was of sound mind and body when he gave them their respective gifts.”
In a statement, Ms. Holland called the lawsuit “fictional revisionist history,” asserting that Mr. Redstone’s lawyers and doctors “vetted and approved all payments” she received. Mr. Redstone’s lawsuit says Ms. Herzer and Ms. Holland engaged in a years-long scheme to drain his wealth by running up credit card bills, selling stock and changing his estate plan. The lawsuit also cites several emails from a nurse for Mr. Redstone saying that Ms. Herzer and Ms. Holland continually berated him and falsely said his family did not want to visit.
The high profile of the plaintiff and the vast fortune involved will remind many of the scandal that arose in 2006 when a grandson of the famous New York philanthropist and socialite Brooke Astor sued for and won guardianship to rescue his grandmother. Aged 104 and suffering from Alzheimers disease, Mrs. Astor was abused and neglected by her son, the younger man’s father, who had allowed her to live in squalor, reduced her medications, nurses and doctor visits, looted her $185 million estate, and closed her beloved estate in Westchester, where she had said she wanted to die. Mrs. Astor died at her estate a year later, under the protection of her grandsons and caring friends. Both cases show that we need to protect our loved ones as they age and make sure they are not taken advantage of.
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