Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Article on Bequesting Season Tickets

Rachael RustmanRachael Rustmann (Comment Editor, EPJ, Vol. 5, J.D. Candidate 2013) recently published her article entitled, It's a Brand New Ballgame: How to Bequest Season Tickets For Your Favorite Sports Team's Games, 4 Est. Plan. & Community Prop. L.J. 369 (2012). The introduction to the article is available below: 

It all started with the Greek Olympic Games. According to written records, the history of sporting events dates back to when the first Olympic games were held in 776 B.C. At that time, the sole event was the stade: an approximately 210-yard run. For nearly 1,200 years, the Olympic games expanded, and athletes continually competed every four years. However, in 393 C.E., Roman emperor Theodosius I abolished the Olympic games because of their pagan influences. Fortunately, Pierre de Coubertin helped revive the Olympic games in 1896. 

About the same time that the Olympic games were making their way into the sports arena, football was beginning to develop in America. In 1876, members from Harvard, and various other universities in the United States, met to formalize the rules for their new game, which they based somewhat on rugby; they called the game “football.” While these institutions and their scholars were just beginning to develop football in the northeastern United States, athletes had already been playing baseball in the United States for almost a century. Baseball, America’s pastime, “has given our people rest and recreation, myths and memories, heroes, history and hope.” Basketball, like football and baseball, is another sport invented in the 19th century. Dr. James Naismath created basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891.

A century after their creation, these various sports evolved into a symbol of American life. Most day-to-day conversations and water cooler talk revolve around sports topics. As a result of this American obsession with sports entertainment, more professional team organizations are capitalizing upon this by marketing season tickets and seat licenses to fans as the business of the sports industry expands. Regardless of a fan’s reason for liking or disliking a team, that allegiance will always be there, in life and in death. This is why many fans with valuable season tickets to various sporting events want to be able to pass on their interest to their friends and family members when they pass. 

Whether it is baseball, football, or basketball, sports in America are an integral part of everyday life. Many people even identify themselves based on their allegiance to various sports teams. Baseball fans of the New York Yankees automatically dislike Boston Red Sox fans and vice versa.

Unfortunately, violent crimes have even resulted from these rivalries. Roughly 70% of the population identifies themselves with some sports team. Some devoted fans have gone so far as vomiting out of anxiety before every kickoff, skipping weddings for games, and even giving up their spot on transplant lists to avoid missing a game. Fans like this have been around forever: “In the Iliad, Homer described spectators at a chariot race peering through the dust and trying to see who was winning. Arguments ensued, bets were made, and a fight almost erupted before Achilles told everyone to chill.” 

Many teams, such as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, and the Duke University Blue Devils, have decade-long waiting lists and can have anywhere from 30,000–60,000 people waiting for a chance to purchase these highly coveted season tickets. 

Regardless of the economic climate looming outside the gates, Americans have always spent countless dollars on sporting events and the activities and costs that come with them. Fans will wait day and night for tickets to some of sport’s most coveted events like the Super Bowl and NCAA March Madness. Some fans, however, will wait a lifetime or more for coveted season tickets to America’s most elite teams’ games. Many sports teams, such as the Green Bay Packers, have their own guidelines and forms for passing on season tickets at death. These forms are usually available through the organization and are meant to help settle most disputes that could potentially arise, but many disputes do arise if the decedent dies intestate. 

This comment explains how individuals can pass on the right to purchase coveted season tickets in their will, if there is a fee associated with the transfer, and if there is a tax or transfer fee associated with the transfer. It will also propose a solution to the varying transfer policies among the sports organizations. 

Part I of this comment introduced the history of sporting events and the integral part those events play in everyday American lives. Part II discusses various teams that already have forms that provide current season ticket owners with the opportunity to transfer tickets and if there is a property interest created by owning season tickets. Part III discusses if there are any transfer fees and if Congress may tax the transfer or purchase of tickets as an inheritance tax or part of the estate tax. Part IV uses a hypothetical situation of a man who has season tickets to multiple teams’ events, and it discusses the difficulties the season ticket holder, lawyers, and courts may face because of the varying team policies. Finally, Part V proposes a solution to the problem with varying transfer policies by implementing a uniform transfer policy among all sports organizations. This can be achieved either by Congress passing a statute that applies to all organizations, each individual state’s congress adopting a statute that applies to the teams within that state, or creating a vested property right with the season ticket holder when he or she purchases the tickets. 


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I would imagine that any attempt of mine to bequest my DePaul Blue Demon season basketball tickets would be met with the filing of a disclaimer by the intended beneficiary.

Posted by: Brian J. Cohan | Aug 31, 2012 6:33:50 AM

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