The estranged heirs of New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson are going to have a much harder time working their way back into the 87-year-old’s will, as a judge has just ruled that Benson is competent enough to continue managing his own affairs.
Earlier this year, Benson’s daughter and grandchildren filed a lawsuit seeking to block his decision to suddenly cut them out of his will and name his third wife, Gayle Marie LaJaunie Bird, as the heir to his estate. Benson’s family argued that he was mentally feeble, and that Gayle’s manipulations were responsible for the alterations to his will.
But according to Orleans Civil District Judge Kern Reese, Benson still has most of his marbles. From the Times-Picayune:
Reese ruled that Benson “is able to make reasoned decisions as to his person and his property and therefore this court will not order an interdiction of any kind in these proceedings.”
Benson didn’t testify in his competency trial, but the ruling reveals that Reese did hear from Benson in the case. Reese wrote that he interviewed Benson at Saints headquarters on April 20.
“The court sat across from the defendant, looked into his eyes, listened carefully to his responses, and concluded the capacity to make reasoned decisions was present,” Reese said.
Reese also heard testimony from various associates of Benson, as well as three psychiatrists who evaluated his mental state. Not all of the psychiatrists agreed that Benson is totally competent. Two of the three described him as suffering from a “sustained mild cognitive impairment,” which affects his short-term memory but does not make him unable to make reasoned decisions. The third psychiatrist, however, described Benson’s impairment as “moderate to severe” and testified that it warranted “full interdiction.”