Steve McNair was a professional football player in the NFL. He played for Tennessee and the Ravens during his career, and he amassed a sizable estate. On July 4, 2009, at the age of 36, he was shot and killed by his mistress.
To add to the tragedy of his murder, McNair had no estate planning documents. Not even a basic will. Therefore, every asset he owned at the time of his death, titled in his own name, had to be probated according to Tennessee’s intestacy laws.
According to reports, McNair’s estate was worth about $19 million. His wife had to hire a probate attorney to handle the probate process. She was named the executor of the estate.
Two of the most notable issues with McNair’s estate are as follows:
First, his wife failed to list McNair’s two children from a prior relationship, and listed only herself and her two children with McNair as heirs.
Illegitimacy does not negate a child’s claim to a share of an estate. The omission of the children meant they could contest the estate and fight to be included. Thus, the probate process dragged out longer than expected.
McNair should have executed, at minimum, a will, which would have specifically stated his intent regarding the distribution of his estate to his children, which would have avoided the omitted child issue.
The second issue involved a home McNair had purchased on a 45-acre tract of land for his mother. The house was titled only in McNair’s name, not his and his mother’s. Therefore, once McNair passed, the house became a part of the estate.
McNair’s wife requested his mother pay rent in the amount of about $3,000 per month or move out. When his mother moved out, reports indicate his wife sued her for $50,000 worth of property she claimed his mother took from the home.
Again, a basic will could have avoided the issue of the home because McNair could have specifically stated his wishes with regards to the home he purchased for his mother.
Now, think about your estate. Think about how your assets titled. Think about your estate planning goals.
Do your estate planning documents meet your goals?
If the answer is “no,” or “I don’t know,” then you should plan to meet with a qualified estate planning attorney. Most issues with estates, like the two discussed above, could have been avoided by proper planning.
Remember, if you fail to plan, you can plan to fail.
Rebekah N. Freeman is an associate attorney with Elder Law & Estate Planning Center. hiltonheadelderlaw.com