Although elder abuse is not a new problem in the United States, as the sheer number of seniors continues to increase at historic rates, more and more people are becoming aware of the problem. An increasing number of lawyers known as elder law attorneys have begun to specialize in this area of the law. Dennis M. Sandoval is one of the most respected elder law attorneys in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. He has served as President of the Southern California Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys in the past.
The media have also devoted considerably more coverage recently to the issue of elder abuse than in the past. As the recent barrage of news articles about entertainment mogul Sumner Redstone illustrate, even those with power and money are not immune from becoming a victim of elder abuse.
For those unfamiliar with the name, Sumner Redstone is the majority owner of CBS Corp. and Viacom Corp. along with his daughter Shari Redstone. He was executive chairman of both companies before stepping down in 2016 at age 92 and Forbes has estimated his worth at $4.5 billion. Just recently, Redstone’s attorneys conceded that he had become incapacitated, and he was placed under court-appointed guardianship.
Recently, the ailing 95-year-old media mogul and his family purportedly reached a settlement to end their lengthy legal dispute with his former live-in companion Manuela Herzer. Another similar lawsuit was also recently settled involving Sydney Holland, the ex-fiancée of Sumner Redstone.
The Lawsuits and Allegations of Elder Abuse
The legal battles began in 2015 when Holland and Herzer were evicted from Redstone’s home. The two women accused Redstone’s daughter, Shari, of orchestrating a plot to throw them out of her father’s life in order to seize control of his media empire.
They alleged that Redstone is being manipulated by his daughter, and is barely capable of communicating. In the fall of 2016, Sumner Redstone filed suit against Herzer and Holland in L.A. Superior Court, claiming that the women had taken advantage of his condition and swindled him out of $150 million. Both Holland and Herzer retaliated by filing their own suits, accusing Shari Redstone of conspiring with her father’s nurses to spy on them and turn her father against them.
Holland, who met Redstone in 2010 through the host of Bravo’s “The Millionaire Matchmaker,” also alleged that Redstone had several other mistresses who received multi-million dollar payouts. In her lawsuit, Holland sought financial support based on the claim that Sumner Redstone promised to support her and her daughter. She also sought a half-interest in Redstone’s Beverly Park home and various of his investments.
Herzer also filed a lawsuit in November 2015 which resulted in exposing Redstone’s failing health as well as prompting questions about his mental capacity. Documents filed in that case also claimed that female escorts were regularly called to his mansion to entertain him and that he initiated stock sales to generate millions of dollars that were lavished on girlfriends.
After Herzer was essentially thrown out, Shari Redstone took charge of her father’s care and took over the family business despite the two having a “frosty” relationship for many years. In 2016, Shari Redstone forced out Viacom’s longtime Chief Executive Philippe Dauman and several board allies. Viacom owns cable channels MTV, Comedy Central, BET, Nickelodeon, and Paramount Pictures.
In October 2016, Redstone sued Herzer and Holland, claiming elder abuse. An attorney for Redstone, Robert Klieger, alleged in court filings that Herzer and Holland schemed to isolate Redstone from his family as they drained his financial accounts. In court documents, Redstone acknowledged that he provided gifts to the two women totaling more than $150 million during a five-year spree, leaving Redstone “in debt” due to tax obligations triggered by those “gifts.”
“They had bags of cash delivered to Beverly Park almost daily, typically bundled in stacks of hundred-dollar bills,” the suit stated. “They had carte blanche with Redstone’s credit cards, regularly charging thousands of dollars per day.” Holland allegedly racked up more than $2 million on Redstone’s credit cards in 2014, including a $58,461 charge at Saks Fifth Avenue and a $752,737 bill at Tracie Butler Interior Design, according to the court papers. That same year, Herzer’s charges totaled $1.5 million, including $128,780 at Barneys and $82,624 at Hermes, the court records said.
Along with lavishing the women with gifts and giving them access to his fortune, Redstone also briefly gave control of his health decisions to Herzer before kicking her out in 2015.
For more than three years, Herzer’s legal team unsuccessfully challenged Redstone’s mental competence tried to get a judge to declare Redstone mentally incompetent. For his part, Redstone filed his own petition to preserve changes made in 2016 that removed Herzer from his personal trust. That change marked the 40th amendment to Redstone’s trust, which maps out his wishes about how his property should be divided after his death. Frequent changes to a Will or trust in later years is often a sign of susceptibility to undue influence, lack of capacity and elder abuse.
As part of the agreement, Herzer agreed to pay the Redstone family $3.25 million to reimburse Redstone for some of the gifts that she had received from him and has agreed not to sue the family again. She also agrees to relinquish any current or future claims she has over his estate or over decisions relating to his health. Herzer may be kicking herself for not accepting the offer made to her two years ago by the Redstone family. Herzer was purportedly offered $30 million to quietly leave Redstone’s life.
Contact Riverside Elder Law Attorneys
If you have questions or concerns regarding financial elder abuse and/or physical / emotional elder abuse, contact the experienced elder care lawyers at Dennis M. Sandoval, A Professional Law Corporation by calling (951) 888-1460 to schedule an appointment. Dennis Sandoval is the only attorney in Riverside County and San Bernardino County certified as a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation and the American Bar Association. He is also one of fewer than 100 attorneys nationwide named as a Fellow of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.