L’Oreal heiress and head of France’s third-largest family fortune, Liliane Bettencourt, has been forcibly placed under the guardianship of her estranged daughter after a French judge ruled Mrs. Bettencourt’s declining mental health was causing her to squander her fortune.
This contentious decision highlights the need for a comprehensive estate plan, including a durable power of attorney and health care proxy, which would have allowed Mrs. Bettencourt to choose her own guardian before court intervention was needed.
Mrs. Bettencourt’s estranged daughter, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, argued to the court that her mother was squandering her fortune, estimated at $20bn, under the influence of flatterers and favor-seekers. Now, Ms. Bettencourt-Meyers, along with two grandsons, will control Mrs. Bettencourt’s wealth and property.
In a recent interview, Mrs. Bettencourt threatened to leave France if her daughter succeeded in having her placed under her guardianship, while her lawyer said that Mrs. Bettencourt was ready for “nuclear war” with her daughter.
In Massachusetts, guardianship is split into two areas; a ‘guardian’ helps manage a person’s physical well-being, while a ‘conservator’ handles their financial affairs and assets. By executing a health care proxy and durable power of attorney as part of a comprehensive estate plan, you can choose who will serve in these important roles should they become necessary. If your chosen appointees cannot or will not serve, you can also name alternates. This way, you have clear control over who will be managing your affairs should you need future assistance and can avoid a potentially damaging legal battle down the road.
Without an estate plan naming your chosen health care proxy and power of attorney, your loved ones will need to go to court to be named either guardian or conservator of your estate. This wastes both time and money, and puts the ultimate decision of who will handle your affairs in the hands of the Massachusetts courts.
Call the Heritage Law Center today for a free consultation on how a comprehensive estate plan can help you and your loved ones avoid getting caught in a legal drama.