It’s not every day that a Colorado estate planning attorney gets to follow a story that involves both estate planning, criminal scandals, and famous people all at the same time. Embattled former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, also known as “JoePa” to both his fans and detractors, recently transferred the deed to house into his wife’s name, selling the property to her for one dollar, plus love and affection. Many detractors immediately jumped to the assumption that he was doing this to avoid the potential (some say inevitable) fallout from the Penn State sex abuse scandal. Attorneys for the Paterno estate, however, claim that the sale of the house is nothing more than an important part of the Paternos’ long-standing estate plan.
Indeed, it may well be that this is the case. In many states, $1 is the minimum amount for which any asset can be sold, and in many states, transferring the deed to a house in advance of death will avoid the otherwise inevitable inheritance tax. In Pennsylvania, so long as there is a living person on the deed for the house who has been on that title for five years, no inheritance tax is collected.
Joe Paterno is not a young man anymore, and he has recently been diagnosed with cancer. Though the doctors think he will make a full recover, it’s possible that he is just getting his affairs in order should the worst come to pass. If he doesn’t survive, he wants to have his wills and trusts ready to go so that his wife continues to be taken care of.
The problem for JoePa is that he’s going to be under scrutiny for everything he does from here on out, due to the scandal that has rocked Penn State.