How can using estate planning techniques help season ticket owners keep their cherished Packers tickets in the family?

For most Green Bay Packers season ticket holders, dealing with their tickets has been easy. The Packers organization has a very clear-cut policy for passing along season tickets at death, and the ticket office at Lambeau Field has a transfer form that is easy to complete. If a Green Bay Packers season-ticket holder dies without completing a transfer form, the worst-case scenario for the estate would be that the beneficiaries cannot agree how to take ownership of the tickets, and the tickets revert to the Packers to be sold to one of the 87,000 people on its waiting list.

The Packers transfer policy

The official policy on transfer of Packers season tickets regarding transfers at death is as follows:

“Upon death of ticket holder

  • To surviving spouse; or if no spouse, the surviving children of a deceased ticket holder without authorization. (If children do not agree – no transfer)
  • If direction by deceased under will or specific writing to family devisees defined [as spouse and “blood” relatives who are not more than first cousins] but not to devisees who are not [spouses or “blood” relatives], even with direction.”

In a simple estate plan, the decedent’s assets usually pass to the spouse. If there is no spouse or if the spouse dies before the ticket holder, then the assets go to the decedent’s children in equal shares. If the children are equal beneficiaries, there could be issues transferring Packers tickets. The Green Bay Packers policy requires that the owner of a season ticket be either an individual or a business. If a ticket owner has five children, and each child wants to own the season tickets, they might not agree on one owner. Even bigger problems could arise if the family situation is more complicated or if the tickets are a part of a more complicated business situation.

Typical disputes

Officials of the Packers, state that most disputes concerning transfer of Packers season tickets are within families. Many disputes occur because the estate plan either does not address the Packers season tickets or does not deal with them according to the Packers policy guidelines and siblings argue over ownership. Usually, when a dispute is among natural siblings, the issue gets resolved, but when a family situation gets more complicated, then the transfer gets more complicated.

Since “the purchase of a season ticket has been said to be in the nature of a lease.…” Packers season-ticket holders have a one-year contract, spelled out on the back of each ticket, and the Packers have the right to change or not renew a person’s tickets any time after that year is over. If a family or business cannot decide on its own how to divide the tickets, the Packers ticket office will help to work with the people in conflict. Should a lawsuit ensue, the Packers organization has been willing to take direction from the court about how to transfer tickets.

A common complication occurs when businesses own Packers season tickets, and the business splits up or one owner dies. In the real-life case of a law firm, season tickets were not addressed in the withdrawal agreement, dissolution agreement, buy-sell agreement, or other document that specified asset distribution. The agreed upon withdrawal agreement did not address the firm’s Packers season tickets. A partner who left the firm ultimately sued because the firm retained the tickets without the departing partner’s permission. The withdrawal agreement should have addressed the Packers tickets or, if it was intended that one partner should own the Packers season tickets, a transfer form should have been completed. The Packers were joined as a defendant but did not actively participate in the lawsuit. The Packers stipulated to the plaintiff that the Packers would follow the court’s direction in transferring tickets provided no claims for relief would be made against the Packers.

In another example, the transfer could get complicated if Husband, a season-ticket holder who is a widower with two children, marries Second Wife, who also has two children. If Husband does not complete a transfer form and the tickets are not specifically bequeathed in his will (or if he does not have a will), upon his death the tickets will go to Second Wife whose will governs the transfer of the tickets upon her death. Even if Second Wife wants to leave the tickets upon her death to Husband’s children, she cannot, because they are not blood relatives. Instead the tickets will go to her children, or even Second Wife’s new husband, if she remarried. If Husband’s intention is for his children to inherit his season tickets, then he must complete a transfer form before his death or have the tickets pass by specific bequest to his children in a will or trust.

Tips to transfer Packers tickets

  • Review the Packers official policy. When contemplating how to transfer Green Bay Packers season tickets, review the organization’s official policy on transfer of season tickets. Determine whether your wishes fit within this policy.
  • Fill out a transfer form. Assuming the ticket holder’s wishes fit within the policy, attorneys should fill out a season-ticket transfer form and then be sure the current season-ticket holder signs the form in the presence of a notary.
  • Store the transfer form with the will. Keep the transfer form with other estate planning documents. I usually advise my clients to store their original will in a safe deposit box, and I would advise them to do the same with the transfer form.
  • Refer in the will to the transfer of tickets – keep it simple. Alternatively (or additionally), a ticket holder’s will or trust could address the transfer of the tickets. By bequeathing the tickets as a specific bequest in a will or trust, the ticket holder could provide for alternative plans if the initial beneficiary predeceases the ticket holder. Keep this language simple so that it doesn’t cause turmoil between the beneficiaries down the road.
  • Plan for complicated family situations. If a family situation is complicated, consider transferring the tickets during the owner’s lifetime or draft an additional agreement to plainly state the owner’s intentions for the tickets.
  • Involve the Packers ticket office during probate. If you’re involved in a probate matter involving Packers tickets and problems arise, involve the Packers ticket office. If the beneficiaries cannot reach an agreement, they could risk losing the tickets all together.

Conclusion

The simplest way to ensure the proper transfer of Green Bay Packers season tickets is to complete the season-ticket transfer form, verify that the transfer will satisfy the Packers official policy, and keep a copy of the season-ticket transfer form with your estate planning documents. Many families and businesses have had their Packers season tickets for many decades. Planning for the transfer of this asset can be simple and inexpensive with the right direction and tools. Attention to detail in the estate planning process ensures the proper passing of Packers tickets, and recognizes the sentimental value they hold.

By Sara B. Andrew, Andrew Law Offices S.C., Fond du Lac and Milwaukee

Resources

Official Policy on Transfer of Packers Season Tickets, available at www.packers.com/tickets/season-tickets.html.

Doug Schneider, Family Settles Green Bay Packers Ticket Lawsuit, Green Bay Press-Gazette, Sept. 24, 2010, at A3.

Associated Press, Brother Sues Brother Over Packers Tickets, Milw. J. Sentinel, May 27, 2009.

Aaron v. Axel, No. 2000AP000615, at 2 (Wis. Ct. App. Dec. 5, 2000) (unpublished opinion).

State Block Inc. v. Poche444 So. 2d 680 (La. Ct. App. 1984).

Official Green Bay Packers website, www.packers.com.

Green Bay Packers season tickets have been sold out since 1960, and the waiting list is miles, perhaps generations, long.