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By: Scott Grossman on January 22nd, 2018

5 Ways Proving Mental Incompetence is Difficult (Donald Sterling Case)


Scott Grossman is certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization as a specialist in Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law. He represents clients in cases throughout California.

In news that has dominated the headlines for many weeks, Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has been fighting the attempts of the NBA and his wife Shelly Sterling to force the sale of the team. Shelly Sterling is now trying to sell the team without needing her husband’s consent. To do so, she is seeking court approval to remove him as a co-trustee of their family trust due to his alleged mental incompetence.

While Donald Sterling’s recent behavior may clearly have been inappropriate, proving mental incompetence is a much more difficult proposition. Attorney Scott Grossman recently discussed the legal challenges that Shelly Sterling will likely face as she continues her pursuit to sell the Clippers. Attorney Grossman highlighted the following reasons as to why a judge may refuse to allow the removal of Donald Sterling as a co-trustee or overturn the revocation of the trust:

5 Reasons Proving Mental Incompetence Is an Uphill Battle

  • First, Shelly Sterling must prove specifically that her husband is substantially unable to manage his finances, or to resist fraud or undue influence.
  • To show mental incompetence, Shelly Sterling must show that her husband is repeatedly making mistakes that a person in his right mind would not make.
  • Even though Shelly Sterling argues that she had two physicians declare Donald Sterling incompetent, as called for under the terms of the trust, the standard that is used to make this determination is outlined by the California Probate Code. The Code applies different standards for different types of transactions. The physicians utilized by Shelly Sterling may not have applied the correct standard when making their assessment.
  • To date, Donald Sterling appears to be responsive and alert in the recordings that were used as evidence against him when attempting to force the sale of the Clippers. In addition, Shelly Sterling has not yet presented evidence that shows her husband exhibited any unusual or unreasonable behavior during his many business dealings.
  • In conclusion, proving mental incompetence is difficult for a man who holds a position of substantial authority. Donald Sterling is in charge of a big organization and has many real estate holdings that he manages. These factors do not typically indicate someone’s incompetence.

Interested in hearing the rest of Attorney Grossman’s interview on KFI AM 60? We encourage you to view our Facebook Page, where we have posted a link to the broadcast.