Ralph Wilson, owner of the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills, passed away last week. Wilson leaves behind an estate that includes the Bill’s franchise which, according to an August 2013 article in Forbes, is worth $870 million.

What will happen to the team is unknown. The outcome may depend on what provisions, if any, Wilson made for dealing with federal estate taxes before he passed away.

This year, the federal estate tax rate is 40% for estates over $5.34 million. That means if Wilson did nothing, his estate would need to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal estate taxes. The federal estate taxes due for his ownership of the Bills franchise alone could be nearly $334 million.  

The lesson here is that if you have a taxable estate, particularly if you own a business or other assets that you would not want broken up or sold just to pay estate taxes, then you need to plan in advance.

If your estate is taxable at either the state or federal level, what steps have you taken to ensure the protection of your family and your assets?

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Chuck Roulet
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Nationally Recognized Estate Planning Attorney, Author, and Speaker
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