It’s summer and time for baseball. You might ask what that has to do with estate planning and we intend to answer that question.
In this issue of our newsletter we will look at the situations of three famous people associated with major league baseball, Larry Pogofsky, Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett and finally, baseball great, Ted Williams.
All have had litigation that sprung up among their heirs after their deaths. In all cases, it seems clear that none of the people mentioned above would have wanted things to turn out this way.
Let’s start with the tamest of the three stories; Larry Pogofsky, a longtime Chicago White Sox fan, team investor and longtime autographed baseball collector.
He was reportedly so proud of his autographed baseball collection that he would dedicate time daily just to admire the display.
He had the autographs of the famous Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Roberto Clemente, to name a few. Pogofsky even had one signed by Babe Ruth, which one dealer said could fetch $25,000, depending on its condition.
His goal was to have a baseball signed by every member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Sadly, Larry died last year, unexpectedly.
He left a wife and two sons. Neither of his son’s were apparently entitled to the collection, but both reportedly interested in making it theirs.
Probably because Larry died unexpectedly, nothing about the collection was written down.
One son (Brad) says the collection was always promised to him, and based on this, took a number of the baseballs. He was later arrested for this.
The other son (Benjamin) said that the baseballs were promised to him and possibly in writing. Although no writing has been put forth that we know of, Ben’s mother seems to back up his story. There is even an allegation that Ben got the local police to go after Brad to get the baseballs back.
The moral of this story, you never know when you’re going to be struck out. If something is important to you, write it down properly, have it witnessed and notarized and let everyone know what you have in mind.
On to the second strike, this one involving a dispute over the ashes of Kirby Puckett, a centerfielder and Hall of Famer who died unexpectedly of a stroke at 45 years of age.
It turned out that after being cremated, there were two sets of interested parties waiting to claim his ashes. Up first were Kirby’s two children. Batting second was Kirby’s fiancée, Jodi Olson.
After some litigation, an Arizona court awarded the ashes to Kirby’s children, since they were his next of kin. As one reporter noted, the ashes were actually given to Kirby’s ex wife, as the mother and guardian for the children. Possibly not someone Kirby was extremely close to.
Whether its one’s ashes or burial instructions, the lesson to be learned here is to document your final instructions (wishes) and let your family know how you want them carried out. A dispute like this means an umpire will be brought in from outside to decide whether you are safe or out.
Our last story, involves Ted Williams. It is truly bizarre.
In 1996, Williams signed a will stating that he wished to be cremated and to have his ashes spread out at sea. After his death in 2002, however, the executor of his estate claimed that Williams wanted to be cryogenically frozen. Two of his children supported this action, citing a piece of paper Williams had signed in which the three all agreed to be frozen so that they would, according to an article from the AP, “be able to be together in the future, even if it is only a chance.” His eldest daughter fought against the disposition of his body, but gave up after running out of money. Williams is currently frozen, with his head separated from his body. His son died of leukemia in 2004 and was also frozen.
What can we learn from all of these baseball players and fans? After all, baseball players aren’t the only families who experience this type of family disharmony. The courts are filled with cases involving disputes that may appear minor, but that are important to the people involved. Usually those fighting feel like they are trying to do what’s right.
The best way to minimize these types of disputes is to be clear with our loved ones about what is important to us and to be clear as to how you would like to see things happen after your death.