Can My Family Inherit My Season Tickets?

Sports fans with season tickets may want their families to enjoy the tickets after they are gone, but passing on these tickets may not be simple.

Getting season tickets to your favorite sport is not always an easy task. Season tickets for some teams can cost a lot of money and require time on a waitlist. It makes sense that you may want family or friends to be able to take advantage of tickets that are still usable after you pass away. However, most teams place limits on how you can transfer the tickets both before and after death.

A season ticket is a contract between the purchaser and the team, so the team can put any restrictions it wishes in the contract. This includes setting limits on when and how the tickets can be transferred to someone else. Teams may explicitly state that the tickets cannot be transferred by will or trust, allow transfers only to a spouse or close family members, or require that ticket holders follow certain procedures in order to transfer the tickets.

For example, some teams have a form that you will need to fill out, designating a beneficiary to inherit your tickets. Other teams state that only a spouse can use a deceased fan’s season tickets. Still others allow transfers only to a parent, spouse, child, or sibling. If there is no surviving family member who can take over the tickets, the tickets go back to the team.

Note that some teams require fans to purchase a seat license before buying season tickets. This means the fan pays a large fee to buy a license for particular seats and then has the right to buy season tickets for those seats. A seat license, unlike season tickets, is transferable via a will or trust.

If you own season tickets, be sure to include them in your estate planning. Your attorney can determine the best way to transfer the tickets.

Don’t Just Hope for an Inheritance; Get It in Writing

A Massachusetts case demonstrates the importance of getting any agreements about inheritance in writing. The Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled that rendering services to someone in the hope or expectation that it will result in payment from an estate is not sufficient to entitle an individual to a portion of the estate.

Suzanne M. Cheney performed many services for her stepfather, Anthony R. Turco, expecting to receive a share of his estate. However, to her great disappointment, upon his passing he left her nothing. Ms. Cheney subsequently sued James F. Flood, Jr., who was both her stepfather’s lawyer and administrator of her stepfather’s estate, alleging legal malpractice and that she was entitled to recovery from the estate for the reasonable value of the services she and her family performed for Mr. Turco during the last years of his life.

The trial court judge dismissed the legal malpractice claim because Ms. Cheney and Mr. Flood had no attorney-client relationship.  The judge then dismissed the claim that there had been an implied promise of payment for services, called quantum meruit under the law, because Ms. Cheney failed to allege that she performed services for Mr. Turco with the expectation that she would be paid for them.

Ms. Cheney appealed the decision regarding the quantum meruit claim, arguing that while there was no express agreement between her and Mr. Turco that she would provide services to him in exchange for being listed in his will as beneficiary, she had always hoped that he would pay her through his estate. Unfortunately for Ms. Cheney, the court found that this gave her no legal basis for payment without an underlying contract or agreement between the parties.  The court ruled that Ms. Cheney’s hope or expectation, even though well founded, is not equivalent to entitling her to reasonable value of services under the legal concept of quantum meruit.

It seems that Ms. Cheney’s mistake was relying on a hope or expectation of receiving an inheritance under her stepfather’s estate and neither discussing it with him nor documenting a contract or agreement between the two.

Receiving an Inheritance While on Medicaid

For most people, receiving an inheritance is something good, but for a nursing home resident on Medicaid, an inheritance may not be such welcome news. Medicaid has strict income and resource limits, so an inheritance can make a Medicaid recipient ineligible for Medicaid. Careful planning is necessary to make sure the inheritance doesn’t have a negative impact.

An inheritance will be counted as income in the month it is received.  You or whoever is representing you will have to inform the state Medicaid agency, and Medicaid coverage will then end until you have again spent down your assets to the countable limit, which is $2,000 in most states. If you receive an inheritance and the amount puts you over the income limits for your state, you will not be eligible for Medicaid for at least that month. If you can properly spend down the money in the same month it is received, however, you will be eligible for Medicaid again the following month. The first thing to do is pay the nursing home for the current month (at the Medicaid rate).

If you have money left after paying the nursing home, your elder law attorney can advise you on the proper way to spend down the money. You may be able to give it to a spouse, a child with special needs, or the child’s special needs trust. You may also pre-pay an irrevocable funeral contract or buy burial items for a close relative.  It could also be spent on travel, dining out, clothes, television, DVD player, and paying off any debts you may have. In most cases, you cannot make gifts with the money, but there are some exceptions to this rule and in some states good planning techniques that may permit some gifting. To be sure, you will need to consult with your elder law attorney.

If the inheritance is too large to spend in one month, your attorney may be able to use other techniques to protect a portion of it.