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Football team owner seeks to alter estate plan

Estate planning can include wills, trusts and many other documents, which create a complex system of protection for you and your heirs. Many people don't realize that an estate plan should be a living group of documents. Reviewing your wills and other arrangements from time to time lets you make changes that align with alterations in your wishes or new family dynamics.

One national news story that illustrates this point is the desire of the Saints NFL team owner, Tom Benson, to make changes to his estate plan. He previously planned to leave ownership of the team to his daughter and her two adult children; he has now decided to leave the team to is wife. Benson has been married to the woman for 10 years.

As part of the estate changes, Benson will have to remove ownership stakes in the football team from various trusts he set up for his heirs. According to news reports, he plans to replace those stakes with other assets, including forgiving debt and real estate holdings.

The number of trusts, value of the change and the fact that the heirs are fighting the change has brought this matter to the courts. The trusts were set up to allow for asset swapping, say reports, as long as the assets were of equal value. Legal documents show that the heirs -- and the trustee -- are questioning whether the assets being swapped in are of equal value to ownership shares in the football team.

This case does deal with assets that are outside the scope of most individual estates. However, the desire to alter an estate may occur with any family or individual, making it important to create estate vehicles that let you make changes in the future.

Source: The Times-Picayune, "Tom Benson family feud: San Antonio receivers drop claims against Saints owner," Katherine Sayre, March. 25, 2015

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