All About Estates

Sumner and National Amusements

In a number of previous Blogs, there have been references to famous families feuding over estates. This Blog is about a similar story except that the subject, Sumner Redstone, is still alive at 92 years of age.
For those who don’t know, Sumner Redstone is a media mogul. He currently owns the majority interest in Viacom and CBS Corporation (through National Amusements Inc.), estimated to be worth around $5 billion.

As one can appreciate, individuals with the type of wealth as Mr. Redstone, usually make very specific plans with respect to their eventual demise and the transfer of their wealth. An indication of Mr. Sumner’s specificity, are recognized in the detail regarding his funeral arrangements as reported in Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair reports that Mr. Sumner made specific plans for his funeral, including a request to be buried with “no makeup, cologne, or jewelry, and no hair styling” in a “simple pine box,” without any personal items inside the coffin. He wanted flowers and pictures of him to be placed at the graveside. He also specified who could pallbearers and who could deliver eulogies, poems and prayers. With respect to the guest list, he wanted it be limited to “family and close friends only……I have no objection to my family members attending so long as they do not interfere with any aspect of these instructions.” If anyone in the family “was unwilling to participate with other people” he had named, they were to be “excused” from the ceremonies.

From what I understand, his estate plan was very comprehensive, and involved his first wife, his daughter, Shari, his grandchildren and possibly there were arrangements for the two most recent women in his life, Ms. Holland and Ms. Herzer. It would appear that Ms. Holland and Ms. Herzer spent a great deal of time with Sumner over the past ten years and Sumner wanted to treat them well under his Will. However, as the saying goes, even the best laid plans can go awry….….especially when such large amounts of money are involved.

As of writing this Blog Mr. Sumner is still alive but various estate planning matters are before the Court, including who should be in charge of his health care, and is he capable of changing the dispositive provisions of his Will. The Judge in this case, David Cowan, sadly explains the mental assessments “describing how this man is hanging on to life.”. I will leave it to readers to enjoy the Vanity Fair article which goes into some detail about the different perspectives on who should be looking out for Sumner’s health and whether he is capable of changing the dispositive provisions in his Will.

About Paul Fensom
Scotiatrust offers a full range of estate, trust and philanthropic advisory services designed to meet a client’s personal objectives and designed to evolve across a variety of life stages and financial events. Email: