As most people know, I am a very big NFL football fan. Unfortunately, poor estate planning and NFL football players goes hand-in-hand, as you can read here, here and here. However, even regular fans in the stand, watching the games have estate planning issues related to the NFL.
Most NFL teams have huge waiting lists for season tickets. The Washington Redskins have a reported 200,000 person waiting list, though I see emails about buying Redskin’s tickets all the time. (Sorry, just a little dig at the Redskins fans.) Most season ticket holders do not realize that season tickets are an asset that needs to be planned for if you want to pass the option for season tickets along to an heir and avoid the waiting list.
I am guessing most Redskins fans are dubious about the need to estate plan for a readily accessible asset. But, the Green Bay Packers have a reported 87,000 person waiting list. Just up 95; the Baltimore Ravens have 3,000 people paying to be on a restricted waiting list. The Pittsburgh Steelers who have a waitlist that will take approximately 50 year to reach the last person on the list.
To further complicate the issue, many teams require season ticket holders to own personal seat licenses (“PSL”). That is another asset. Most NFL teams have websites marketplaces where PSL owners can buy and sell PSLs .
For fans of teams with long waiting lists looking to pass their tickets down to the next generation, planning is essential.
Most NFL teams have transfer policies upon death, wherein the tickets must go to an individual or corporation. Some teams even have a transfer documents that a season ticket holder can name a person to transfer on the ticket upon the owner’s death, much like naming a beneficiary on a life insurance policy. But, if a person doesn’t complete a transfer document, some teams, like the Packers, have a specific policy that states:
Upon death of ticket holder:
- To surviving spouse; or if no spouse, the surviving children of a deceased ticket holder without authorization. (If children do not agree – no transfer.)
- If direction by deceased under will or specific writing to family devisees defined [as spouse and “blood” relatives who are not more than first cousins] but not to devisees who are not [spouses or “blood” relatives], even with direction.
In other words, a spouse will get the tickets, and you can bequeath the tickets to a relative no farther away than a first cousin. It is sort of like intestacy laws for Packers’ tickets.
But, what happens in families with more complicated family dynamics when there is no planning for the tickets. For example, a husband and wife and two children where the husband owns season tickets. The husband passes away. Typically, the wife will inherit the tickets. The wife remarries. Her new husband has two children and is a big NFL fan. She passes away without planning for transferring the tickets. Guess who gets them? The new husband. The children from the first marriage are left out. Surely that will create family discord. In fact, there are even lawsuits over who gets the tickets or at least the money derived from those tickets. (See Aaron v. Axel)
Not every person has NFL season tickets. However, a person might have frequent flyer miles or other loyalty rewards program that has a great value or some other unusual asset. For example, a relative of my wife has earned approximately 8+ million frequent flyer miles. Many organizations that offer reward programs have individual policies with regard to transferring those points upon death of the account holder. If concerned with how frequent flyer points are transferred, or, if they are even able to be transferred, check the organization’s transfer policies.
Green Bay season tickets are not found in everyone’s estate, but most people have other atypical assets. If that asset has great enough value, some estate planning associated with that asset beyond a simple clause in a will is needed.