Now that the tributes and accolades have faded, Muhammad Ali’s estate will be fought over by his ex-wives, nine children and a brother. And that’s just the beginning. Who knows how many others prepared to get in line and make a claim against the estate?
The reason his estate will be a matter of contention has a lot to do with toll his progressive disease took on his mind and how eagerly his various family members will want to challenge his legal documents based on his alleged mental competency or lack therreof. Ali suffered from Parkinson’s for 32 years and it’s possible that the disease process affected his competence. While Parkinson’s affects mostly muscle movement, it sometimes comes with other aliments that can affect mental competency.
News articles have many of the lurid details but the takeaway from the upcoming Muhammad Ali estate battle is that preparing estate planning documents including a will and sometimes a trust sooner rather than later is the best way to protect your wishes. Step two and three is to ensure that you regularly update your documents, and if your mental competency is flagging, make sure you have some medical records written near to the time of document signing that back up the fact that you have the mental capacity to sign these types of documents.
Further, as mentioned above, when seeing your doctor ask them to slip a note in your Medical file as to your state of mind. As long as those notes show that your were mentally competent to understand what was in your documents, your wishes as noted in a will, power of attorney or advanced medical directive should be honored.
You can’t rope-a-dope the law. If you want to win the battle to preserve your wishes you need to be proactive and come out prepared and ready to fight.