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The estate planning lessons to be learned from an NFL owner

Even the most casual sports fan understands and appreciates just how much professional sports franchises are now worth thanks to everything from lucrative media broadcast deals and endorsement agreements to ticket sales and general stadium revenue.

Given the level of assets involved, it should come as no surprise then to learn that these franchise owners almost always go to great lengths to ensure that their teams are passed on in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

To illustrate, take the National Football League's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whose owner Malcolm Glazer recently passed away after a prolonged illness.

Shortly after Glazer's passing, the Buccaneers released a statement intimating that rigorous estate planning had insured that his heirs -- including six children -- would retain ownership of the franchise "for generations to come."  

While the exact details of how the Buccaneers will be managed going forward remains unclear, legal and financial professionals are speculating that the aforementioned rigorous estate planning had long ago been put in place such that nobody within the Glazer family will be caught off guard by anything concerning the team.

Specifically, these professionals indicate that while it's possible that Malcolm Glazer's wife could have simply inherited the entirety of his estate, they indicate that the more likely scenario is that the disposition of his assets -- including the Buccaneers -- had already been prearranged through gifting and complex trusts set up over the year to minimize exposure to estate taxes.

"Typically there are trust agreements drafted and tweaked over time that will dictate how this gets passed on," said one financial professional. "The key is the work done prior to his death."

Given that public disclosure is not likely to take place via the probate courts, the actual ownership interest surrounding the Buccaneers will remain shrouded in secret, at least for the time being.

While you may discount this story due to the massive wealth involved, it does serve to underscore the inherent value in creating an estate plan regardless of your income level. Indeed, those who set up a trust can, like Glazer, avoid probate, keep matters private, minimize estate taxes and ensure their assets are distributed according to their exact wishes.

Source: The Tampa Bay Times, "Careful estate planning likely ensures Tampa Bay Bucs stay with Glazer family," Jeff Harrington, May 28, 2014

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