When Tom Benson died last year at the age of 90, he left behind a sprawling empire that included two professional New Orleans sports teams and a group of car dealerships. Unfortunately for him, he spent some of the last years of his life squabbling with heirs over who would get what.

The legal battle was marked by claims Benson wasn’t mentally competent when he made sweeping changes to his estate plans. His daughter and two grandchildren alleged he was acting at the direction of his third wife, Gayle Benson, 72, whom he married in 2004. Tom Benson rejected the claims, and a Louisiana court agreed. When all was settled, his wife ended up with the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans and his daughter and two grandchildren got most of his other holdings. But it took a lot of time, a lot of lawyers—and presumably a lot of money.

This kind of drawn-out fight for control is a risk faced by a growing number of longer-living American billionaires. At least 15 of them died last year, leaving behind assets collectively worth about $60 billion, including all the complex trappings that come with immense wealth: wide-ranging business interests, properties, sports teams, yachts, planes—you name it.

The number of U.S. billionaires has grown swiftly of late. There were an estimated 747 of them in North America in 2017, up from 490 in 2010, according to a study. At the same time, long-term economic data suggest the 10-figure crowd and those just behind them control ever-larger pieces of the economic pie. The wealthiest 1 percent control 37.2 percent of the country’s personal wealth, while the bottom 50 percent control nothing.

And the rich are living longer than ever, adding years of asset accumulation at a time when income inequality has become a political flashpoint. While cuts to estate and gift taxes are partly to blame for the concentration of wealth, another cause is a growing advisory industry aimed at making sure all that money goes exactly where the super rich want it to go.

A New Orleans native, Tom Benson got his start selling cars, first in Louisiana and then Texas. In 1985 he was part of a group that bought the Saints franchise, now worth almost $2 billion, for $70.2 million. In 2012, he bought the Pelicans for $338 million. That franchise is now worth about $1 billion.

The fight over his estate began playing out in 2014, after the billionaire, then 87, shifted future control of some assets from his daughter Renee and her children to his wife, Gayle Benson. The grandchildren, Rita and Ryan LeBlanc, had been involved in running parts of the family businesses. The dispute culminated in a mental competency hearing, where a New Orleans judge held that, despite “memory lapses,” Benson was able to manage his own affairs.

Another prominent case involved a multibillionaire still among the living. Disputes over the competency of 95-year-old Sumner Redstone led to four years of litigation over his assets and business holdings. In January, Redstone settled a long-running legal fight with a former lover and confidante. The deal resolved all pending lawsuits between him and Manuela Herzer, who after a falling-out had sought to be reinstated as Redstone’s health-care agent. This triggered a cascade of litigation around his family’s control of the media empire, Redstone’s pay and his daughter Shari’s influence over his $3 billion fortune.

“Stepping into the shadows is something that older people don’t want to do.”

These days, the fortune of modern-day billionaires is “so large that it’s anticipated to last for not just children or grandchildren or even great-grandchildren, but great-great-grandchildren who these patriarchs will never know,” said Elizabeth Glasgow, a partner at Venable LLP who specializes in succession and wealth planning. And with that expectation comes the increased threat of litigation.

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