Estate Planning Is No Game, Especially When You Own A Professional Sports Team

While virtually everyone can benefit from having an estate plan of his or her own, proper planning is particularly important for people of means—for example, owners of professional sports teams. Let’s take a look at what happened following the death of three such owners.

Joseph Robbie
Joseph Robbie was a highly successful businessman and attorney. He also owned one of the most successful teams in National Football League history, the Miami Dolphins. When Robbie passed away in 1990, his estate was valued at slightly less than $100 million, nearly 50 percent of which was lost to federal estate taxes. This, together with bitter infighting between family members, forced Robbie’s family to sell the team at a fraction of its value—a result that could have been avoided through proper planning.

George Steinbrenner

English: George Steinbrenner's life, work clip...

George Steinbrenner 1930-2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

George Steinbrenner, the owner of the New York Yankees, a team worth approximately $1.6 billion according to Forbes, passed away in 2010. However, at the time of his death, the franchise was 95 percent leveraged due to debt from construction of the Yankee’s new stadium. While this sounds like a recipe for disaster, Steinbrenner had the “good fortune” to die in a year when there was no federal estate tax. In effect, he saved his heirs approximately $600 million by passing away in 2010. In the world of sports, pundits often say, “It’s better to be lucky than good.” In Mr. Steinbrenner’s case, it would appear that this cliché rang true.

Ralph Wilson
Ralph Wilson died earlier this year. He was the sole owner of the Buffalo Bills. He never made public his intentions for the franchise, so it is unknown if ownership will transfer to his family members, or the team will be put up for sale. The result may wind up revolving around the issue of estate taxes and whether Wilson put in place a plan to reduce or eliminate payment of these taxes upon his death.

If he did nothing, his family may have to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal estate taxes. However, if he left the team to his wife, his estate would pay nothing, thanks to the marital exemption. There are a number of other estate planning tools he could have used to protect the family’s assets, together with the Bill’s future in Buffalo. Given how little time has passed since Mr. Wilson’s death, it’s simply too early to tell what will happen to his estate and the franchise.

To learn more about the estate planning issues associated with these professional sports team owners, click on the links below.

A Tale of Two Families

How Steinbrenner Saved His Heirs a $600 Million Tax Bill

Estate taxes may hold key to Bills’ future after Wilson’s death

Paper Makes A Comeback—Social Security Administration To Resume Mailing Benefits Statements

I always liked receiving those statements in the mail every year detailing my Social Security benefits. It reminded me that, yes, some of the money I paid in taxes that year would eventually come back to me when I retire. Sure, I could have registered to view my benefits online, but I just liked getting those statements. If you feel the same way, I have some good news for you—the Social Security Administration will resume mailing them out this September.

Modern Social Security card.

Modern Social Security card. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a catch, however. The statements will only be mailed to workers aged 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, and older. And, if you registered to view your benefits online, you will not receive the mailed statement.

Why did the Social Security Administration decide to resume mailing benefits statements? A recent article I found online (I know, somewhat ironic, isn’t it?) discusses several reasons. One is that only about 11 million people signed up to access information about their benefits online. Given that Social Security is a primary component of a secure retirement, it is important that people understand the benefits that will be available to them when they retire.

The Social Security Administration also received pressure from advocacy groups for the elderly and the paper industry. The executive director of Consumers for Paper Options, John Runyan, pointed out that millions of Americans have no Internet access, and therefore no way to verify the accuracy and amount of their benefits.

Fortunately, now they will.

If you want to set up online access – click here.

Got Arthritis? Get Milk.

It is estimated that more than a third of adults over the age of 65 have a degenerative joint disease known as osteoarthritis. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, arthritis of the knee is particularly severe and common in older women.

A glass of milk Français : Un verre de lait

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently came across an article in the AARP newsletter that discussed this issue and referenced an interesting study funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The study suggests that women who drink up to six glasses of fat-free or low-fat milk per week are able to delay the effects of arthritis in their knees.

Unfortunately, the study indicated that men did not experience a similar decline in the progression of knee osteoarthritis. Oddly enough, the study also showed that consuming other dairy products, such as yogurt or cheese, did not reduce joint deterioration at all. In fact, women who consumed more cheese displayed faster deterioration.

The researchers who took part in the study were unable to discern a cause-effect explanation for what they found. However, when the team’s leader, Bing Lu, M.D., was asked by the New York Times whether people with osteoarthritis should drink milk, his answer was simple: “Yes, low-fat or fat-free milk.”

Given some of the foods and beverages that are rumored to treat osteoarthritis, such as shark cartilage and snake venom, I’ll take a cold glass of milk every time.

Rules Governing Care Of Dementia Patients In Massachusetts Amended

Workers in nursing home dementia care units will now have to receive eight hours of initial training plus four hours of additional training every year, according to rules recently adopted by state regulators. The new regulations also require such facilities to have, at the very least, one therapeutic activities director. The therapeutic activities director is responsible for ensuring residents in the dementia unit are provided with appropriate and meaningful activities.

Dad at Diamond Ridge Healthcare Center (Novemb...

(Photo credit: cseeman)

These new regulations close a legal loophole that permitted nursing homes to advertise their dementia units without actually providing workers with specific training or residents with specialized activities. The regulations were finalized by the Public Health Council, an appointed body of health advocates and academics that sets public policy.

Another change that has been under discussion of late is the requirement for a 6-foot fence surrounding outdoor areas, with the goal of preventing residents from wandering away and becoming lost.

However, some nursing home operators objected to this change, arguing that facilities in urban areas might never be able to meet a requirement mandating that residents have access to outdoor space if 6-foot fences were required. Other operators said that fences this high could reduce residents’ enjoyment of the opportunity to be outside in the first place.

The Public Health Council came up with a compromise, requiring that nursing homes with dementia care units must have a “fence or barrier to prevent injury and elopement.”

It is important to note that the new regulations require that all licensed nursing homes, not simply those advertising dementia units, must provide dementia-specific training for every direct-care worker within 180 days.

As a dedicated Massachusetts elder law attorney, I applaud these new regulations and invite you to click on the link below to learn more about them.

Lessons In Estate Planning From Deceased Celebrities

Many of us think, “If I was rich and famous, I wouldn’t have a care in the world.” However, as the recent passing of two Hollywood stars shows us, when it comes to estate planning we all grapple with similar concerns and hopes for our loved ones.

Philip Seymour Hoffman won a Academy Award for...

Philip Seymour Hoffman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Consider the case of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who recently died of a heroin overdose. His plan contained a provision requesting that his son, Cooper Hoffman, be raised in or near the cities of Manhattan, Chicago, or San Francisco. Why would he include such a provision? Hoffman’s Will stated, “The purpose of this request is so that my son will be exposed to the culture, arts and architecture that such cities offer.”

Phillip wanted to pass some of his values onto his son, and used his estate plan to make it possible.

Paul Walker

Paul Walker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or consider Paul Walker, the star of Fast & Furious who was recently killed in a car accident. He left his entire estate to his daughter, Meadow, with the provision that she cannot access the money until she becomes an adult. Paul also named his mother, not Meadow’s mother, as Medow’s guardian. Paul apparently felt more confident that his mother would be the better guardian and manager of Meadow’s newfound wealth.

Naming guardians, teaching our children proper values, determining “who gets what, and when.” These are difficult issues that all families face, not just celebrities.

I welcome the opportunity to help you make decisions like these and plan for whatever the future holds.

Jim Henson Says Goodbye to His Loved Ones

Before his death, Jim Henson, the creative genius behind the much-loved Muppets, penned two letters for his loved ones to open on his death, one for his children and one for his friends and family. In 1990, Mr. Henson died at age 53 leaving family, friends, and several generations of fans and admirers to morn his passing.

Jim Henson

Cover of Jim Henson

Despite his early passing, Mr. Henson’s parting words were hopeful and uplifting. He wished his children a “fun, and joyous, and fulfilling” life and promised that if he could not watch over them, he would at least be waiting to meet them on the other side. He continued by reminding his children that he “has always loved each of [them] with an eternal, bottomless love” and asked them to “watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody.” He finished with a simple reminder and request: “It’s a good life, enjoy it.”

To his friends and family, his message was similar in tone. Mr. Henson explained that he was not afraid of death, but, instead, looked forward to being reunited with old friends. He conveyed his wish for a “nice, friendly little service of some kind” with a song or two from some of his friends that sing and few happy words from some of his close friends about what they enjoyed doing together. He also asked that a Dixieland band play and end the service with “a rousing version of ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’”

Social Security Going Up 1.5% in 2014

The Social Security Administration announced today that benefit amounts will be increasing 1.5% starting in 2014. The 1.5% increase is based on the Cost of Living (COLA), and is one the smallest increases since automatic COLA increases started in 1975.

It is not a big increase, but is better than 2009 and 2010 when there was no increase at all. The largest increase was 14.3, which happened in 1980.

History of COLA Increases Since 1975

Social Security Administration Press Release

Winchester Elder Law Attorney Receives CELA

I am pleased, and proud, to let you know that I have recently been accredited as a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA)* by the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF). Achieving this designation was not easy, but I knew that by taking part in and completing the rigorous certification process, I would be able to continue to provide you with the best possible counsel on matters impacting your well-being and that of your loved ones.

I don’t like to toot my own horn about personal achievements, so I’ll let the folks at NELF toot the horn for me. Here is how they describe the rigorous accreditation process, and the standards that must be met, to receive certification.

A Certified Elder Law Attorney is more than just an attorney who specializes in the field of elder law. CELAs are committed, through certification, to maintaining and improving their proficiency with continual practice and continuing legal education. Becoming certified in elder law validates a lawyer’s specialty to handle issues that affect senior citizens. A CELA is in a unique position to serve the interests of older, maturing populations by having met comprehensive and strict requirements. He or she must:

  • Be licensed to practice law in at least one state or the District of Columbia
  • Be actively practicing law and must have practiced law for at least five years prior to applying for certification
  • Be a member in good standing of the Bar Associations in all places where he/she is licensed
  • Have spent an average of at least 16 hours a week practicing elder law during the three years preceding the application for certification. The attorney must also have handled at least 60 elder law matters during those three years with a specified distribution among a wide variety of topics
  • Have participated in at least 45 hours of continuing legal education in elder law during the three years preceding the application
  • Be favorably evaluated by five elder law attorney specialists
  • Pass a one time full-day certification examination
  • Repeat a similar elder law certification process every five years

An elder law attorney must be fully aware of the applicable tax consequences of any action, or will recommend the need for more sophisticated tax expertise if needed. Attorneys certified in elder law will also readily recognize areas of concern that may arise during counseling and representation relating to the following issues:

  • Abuse, neglect or exploitation of an older or disabled person
  • Insurance
  • Housing
  • Long-term care
  • Employment
  • Retirement

It wasn’t easy, but I’m glad I did it. I look forward to meeting your planning needs in the future.

*Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation.

May Is Elder Law Education Month

The Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys have joined together to sponsor “Taking Control of Your Future: A Legal Checkup.” Qualified attorneys will be giving presentations throughout the month of May at local Councils on Aging.

I will be speaking at the Arlington Council on Aging on May 13, 2013, at 10:30. I hope to see you there.

Aid and Attendance Benefits

On December 6, 2012 I will be giving a presentation at Atria Longmeadow Place, 42 Mall Rd., Burlington, MA on the Aid and Attendance benefit available for qualified veterans. This presentation is free and open to the public. The presentation starts at 6:30 and refreshments will be served.

No reservation is required, but if you would like to make sure you have a seat, please call Atria Longmeadow Place at (781) 270-9008.

Atria Longmeadow Place Calendar (to RSVP on-line)

More Information on Aid and Attendance:

What Is Aid and Attendance and How To Qualify

Department of Veterans Affairs Booklet: Veterans Pension Program