In the midst of authorities searching for a wealthy Florida philanthropist who went missing after a boating trip last month, the man’s mother filed for a petition in court to be named the sole conservator over his estate. Since the first few days after his disappearance the philanthropist’s mother and wife have been battling each other in court over conservatorship of his estate. The mother, who since changed her request to have Northern Trust maintain conservatorship over her son’s estate, claimed she wanted to protect her son’s assets and ensure the business ran smoothly.

The man’s wife on the other hand, suggested that such a discussion was ‘premature’ and filed for conservatorship of the estate to protect her family’s interests. Both the mother’s and the wife’s petitions were an attempt to take control of the missing philanthropist’s estate, which is estimated to be worth approximately $100 million.

In the Broward County court, the ten lawyers involved in the case agreed that Northern Trust should assume control of the missing man’s estate. Last Thursday, the man’s mother won the legal battle against his wife over conservatorship of his estate and thus Northern Trust will oversee the majority of the estate’s business.

Any situation where conservatorship becomes an issue can be emotionally charged. In this Florida case, the emotion runs even deeper due to the fact that the man remains missing. This case is a good demonstration of the importance of having an estate plan which lays out who is in charge of making certain decisions in the event the estate owner should become incapacitated and unable to communicate on his or her own behalf. When a person is missing, much of their daily life is put on hold, however when others rely on that person, a contingency plan should be in place to ensure the person’s wishes are followed.