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Julie Garber

Steve McNair's Estate - Who Will Get What?

By July 24, 2009

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Dying without a will presents all sorts of problems for people who have accumulated even a small amount of wealth. And for someone like Steve McNair, who made over $75 million during his NFL career, dying "intestate" is going to cause his family the following problems:

  1. Tennessee law provides that Steve McNair's wife, Jonula "Mechelle" McNair, is only going to inherit the greater of one-third of the probate estate or a portion of the elective estate (this will depend on how many years they were married and how many assets passed to Mechelle McNair outside of the probate estate), not the entire estate.
  2. Because Mechelle McNair is only going to inherit a portion of the estate, the estate will most likely owe both Tennessee and federal estate taxes.
  3. The mothers of the two children born out of wedlock must establish the paternity of their children by "clear and convincing proof," provided that Steve McNair openly treated the children as his and did not refuse to pay child support.
  4. Assuming that the two children born out of wedlock are determined to be the children of Steve McNair, then the four children will each inherit a one-fourth share of what is left after Mechelle McNair takes her portion.
  5. Since all of the children are still minors, each mother will have to petition the court to be appointed the legal guardian of their child's inheritance.
  6. When each child reaches the age of 18, their entire inheritance will be turned over to them, free and clear of any strings attached.
  7. The Emergency Petition filed for probate indicated that Steve McNair owned "livestock" that was located in Mississippi. This could complicate things even more for two reasons: (1) Mississippi may require that an "ancillary estate" be opened there in addition to the estate being probated in Tennessee, resulting in additional legal fees and costs; and (2) If Mississippi has intestacy and elective share laws that are different from Tennessee's laws, then the livestock may be divided up among Mechelle and the children in a different manner than how things will be divided up under Tennessee law.

What's wrong with this picture? If Steve McNair had taken the time to create even the most basic estate plan, he could have left more - even up to the entire estate - to his wife, protected his children's inheritance well beyond the age of 18 through the use of trusts, avoided the public scrutiny of his assets and family issues, and saved his loved ones thousands or perhaps millions of dollars in legal fees, other costs and estate taxes.

While we can only guess about what Steve McNair would have done had he taken the time to make an estate plan, we can surely conclude that the plan that the Tennessee intestacy laws has provided for his family is not 100% of what he would have wanted. This is a prime example of how relying on intestacy laws to distribute your estate will give you an estate plan that doesn't work.

November 3, 2010 at 4:16 pm
(1) alvin says:

To your knowledge, are there any provisions in the estate for Steve McNair’s mother? The 10,000 sq. ft. home at the ranch in Collins, Mississippi was a gift to Steve’s mom. There is evidence to support this statement. Steve’s residence was in Nashville. The home was placed in Steve’s name for tax purposes only. Why is Steve’s mom required to pay rent ($3,000 monthly) to stay in the house?

November 2, 2012 at 3:38 pm
(2) Diane says:

Since they did a document on television and in the newspaper that Steve McNair had build this home for his mother. His wife mechelle did not protest it then, why is she protesting it now?

His mother has suffered a great loss; the death of her eldest son. Mechelle has all she needs and some more. Why not let her stay until her death.
I know she is hurt and grieving. Who will it hurt to let his mother reside in the house.

There is no reason to be so greedy. There is plenty for everybody. His mother is not responsible for his actions. Does mechelle hate his mother?

We all know that this was his wish for his mother to have this home.
His mother worked hard to provide for her children. He promised his mother a home, so let her have it. I know that mechelle knows this. How would she feel if this was her mother? Would she want steve to take the home from her mother if the shoe was on the other foot?

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