Former Penn State Coach Joe Paterno’s Estate Shows What Happens Without a Proper Estate Plan

Coach Joe Paterno died recently at the age of 85.  His career at Penn State began in 1950 as an assistant coach.  In 1966 he became the head coach, a position which he held for 44 years/seasons.  During his career he amassed a record of 409 victories as a head coach in Division-1 football.

A sad event occurred not long ago when one of his assistants was arrested for child sexual abuse charges.  Joe Paterno was forced to retire, and sadly passed away only three months later.  With his death, the family, like any other family, did what they had to do when a loved one dies.  They needed to administer the estate of the deceased.

Joe Paterno was a man who spent his life avoiding the media as much as he could.  Now, his estate is thrust into the bright light of media attention that he tried to avoid.  That light continues to shine on his family and his estate after his death because of his estate planning.

As with most families, his family wanted to keep as much confidentiality about his estate as possible.  Unfortunately, it was thrust into the court system because he only had a will, and this opened his estate to public view.  At the request of the family, the judge originally sealed the file, which included his will and other information about his estate. Recently, when the family decided they could not avoid further publicity they asked the court to unseal the file and make the will and estate information available to the public.

The release by the Paterno family was to insure maximum transparency and to eliminate unfounded speculation.  Joe Paterno was far from the highest paid coach in Division-1 college football.  When the court records were opened to the public and the details were released, we discovered that Joe Paterno had received from the state of Pennsylvaniaa pension valued at $13.4M.  There are other details that have not yet been released, however you can rest assured there will be more to come due to the public nature of his documents.

You may not be Joe Paterno or any other celebrity, but the failure to plan properly will result in your personal information being available to the public.  This has happened to a number of famous people, including, but not limited to, Jackie Onassis and former Supreme Court Chief Justice, Warren Berger, with the latter’s estate plan being published to the world.  If Joe Paterno had created a proper estate plan by using a Living Trust, he and his family would have been protected from the media and the public and their planning and asset information would have remained private.

Proper planning will give you and your beneficiaries the privacy and protection they need and deserve.

Contributed by MHK attorney and senior partner Dan R. Morris

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This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

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