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Trust litigation over Los Angeles Clippers sale heats up

Our readers from the Twin Cities area who follow the Minnesota Timberwolves, or are just all-around fans of NBA basketball, have probably heard about the ongoing saga of Donald Sterling. Recently, the NBA prohibited Sterling from maintaining ownership of his team, the Los Angeles Clippers, and also fined him on account of certain racial slurs he made.

For his part, Sterling has waffled on whether or not he will comply with the NBA's demand. He has at certain points said that the will allow the team's co-owner, who also happens to be his estranged wife, to sell the team for $2 billion to a wealthy business executive. At present, however, Sterling has pledged to use legal means to fight both the NBA and those who would sell the team out from under him.

Legally, the Los Angeles Clippers are owned by a family trust, and Sterling is trustee of that trust. This means that, ordinarily, Sterling would be able to make most decisions with respect to the team. However, Sterling's estranged wife is arguing that he is not fit to act as trustee, pointing to the fact that three doctors have opined that Sterling is suffering from dementia and is not fit to be running the affairs of a multi-million dollar trust.

This family dispute appears to be headed to the courtroom at present, and both the NBA and others will likely be eagerly awaiting the outcome of the case. Although most Minnesota residents are probably not wealthy enough to own a basketball team, they too can and maybe even should follow this case closely.

After all, this case illustrates the complexities of estate and trust litigation. As in this case, sometimes disgruntled relatives or others may try to remove a trustee of an important family fortune.

Source: CNN, "Probate court to hold trial on Shelly Sterling's plan to sell L.A. Clippers," Michael Martinez and Linda Hall, June 12, 2014

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