Football Players Need an Estate Plan Too

01/15/2013

We all heard the story of Jovan Belcher, the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker who murdered the mother of his infant daughter and then shot and killed himself at the Kansas City Chiefs' football stadium.

Certainly, this was a tragedy.  But it may very well be that lack of planning will make a very bad situation worse.

It appears that a custody and estate battle has begun over Jovan Belcher's infant daughter, Zoey Michelle Belcher.  Zoey is only about four months old and is expected to inherit the following from her late father's estate:

  • $108,000 annually for four years under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement and then $48,000 in the fifth year.  After the fifth year, she will receive $52,000 a year until she reaches 18 (and she can continue to receive this amount on an annual basis until she reaches 23 if she attends college).
  • Zoey may be the beneficiary of a $600,000 NFL life insurance policy plus an additional $200,000 for each credited season (Belcher was in his fourth season at the time he killed himself).
  • Zoey may also be the beneficiary of a $100,000 retirement account.
  • Zoey is the beneficiary of an irrevocable trust fund set up by the  owners of the Kansas City Chiefs, the current value of the trust fund has not been revealed to the public.

So Zoey is probably financially (albeit not emotionally) secure.  Unfortunately it appears that neither Zoey's father or mother had set up any type of estate plan prior to the murder-suicide.

This means no guardian has been named for Zoey.  And is usually the case when money is involved, it appears we will have a custody battle between the maternal and paternal grandparents over who will care for Zoey and manage the millions she is set to inherit.

Shortly after the murders, Cheryl Shepherd (Zoey's grandmother and Jovan Belcher's mother) was granted temporary custody of Zoey.  Ms. Shepherd also filed a petition with the Kansas City court to become Zoey's permanent guardian and she asked the court name her administrator of her late son's estate.

All of this prompted Zoey's maternal grandparents, Rebecca Anne Gonzalez and Darryl Perkins, who live in the Dallas area, to file a petition to request temporary custody of Zoey in a Texas court.

The Kansas City court has now appointed a guardian ad litem, who is an adult charged with looking out for the best interest of Zoey.  The Kansas City judge and the Texas judge will have a conference on January 17 to discuss which court should have jurisdiction to proceed.

The estate planning lessons that can be learned from this unfortunate situation are numerous, but the most important one is quite obvious - make sure that if you have minor children you take the time to put the legal documents in place that will be required if you die an untimely death, otherwise your children may very well end up in the wrong house, with the wrong caretakers and the wrong people watching over the finances.