Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Fallen Hero

For NFL fans, Steve McNair was a throwback -- a gritty, tough-as-nails quarterback, and a great leader. Off the field, McNair was praised for giving back to the community through numerous charitable works.

Sadly, McNair's legacy has been forever tarnished by his tragic death -- killed by his 20-year-old mistress in a murder-suicide, as his wife and two of his children slept in the family home miles away.

Adding to the tragedy is the recent news that McNair died without a will, leaving his wife and four kids -- two of whom are from a prior relationship -- in a more difficult situation. Under Tennessee law, Mrs. McNair is entitled to only 1/3 of Steve's probate assets, with the remainder to be divided amongst the four children. If all the children are still minors, legal guardians will need to be appointed to administer their inheritances until they reach age of majority, which in most states is 18. Like most 18 years old, odds are that McNair's children will be ill-equipped to adequately handle what will likely be significant assets at that time, and they will surely be targets for scam artists and other predators. Also, because McNair's wife is not the mother of two of his children, their is a likelihood of tension between the interests of Mrs. McNair and her children, and the interests of Steve's children from his prior relationship. All of this will be subject to a public spectacle before the media hordes and an insatiable public.

For years McNair was one of the more highly paid athletes in the NFL, so it is likely he has an estate significantly in excess of the federal estate tax threshold of $3.5 million. Since McNair apparently had done no estate planning, 45% of his assets in excess of the $3.5 million threshold will be subject to federal estate tax, and a portion will likely be subject to Tennessee's own state estate tax as well. Depending upon the liquidity of the estate assets, it could be difficult to pay the taxes, which are due 9 months from the date of death.

Steve McNair's death has left his adoring fans in shock. Now his betrayed wife and children are left picking-up the pieces from Steve's failure to make even rudimentary arrangements to provide for an orderly transfer of assets to his family after his death.


  1. Richard,

    This case is way too common. It is a shame that assets will be wasted and squandered because Mr. McNair and his wife did not even do the most basic of financial planning and create a will. There are so many creative ways people can care for loved ones, save on estate taxes, and support charitable causes by having a simple will. All that is too late now for the McNair family.
    Karen VanHouten, Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan

  2. Karen,

    Of course you and I come from the same perspective. The best way to combat this is to keep getting the word out about the choice people have to take control of their affairs -- which is one of the reasons I created this blog.