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Succession planning tips using Broncos ownership example

It’s not that often that football and estate planning are in the same sentence. But wealthy families are the owners of many of the National Football League teams. With this come succession issues as many owners enter their 80s and 90s.

Denver Broncos ownership was one example in a recent Sports Illustrated article on the topic. It illustrates potential issues for any family business, ranch or farm owner who hopes for a successful transition to a younger generation.

The intention to keep the franchise in the family

As the longtime owner of the Broncos, Pat Bowlen had every intention of keeping the franchise in his family. At his death, he planned for equal shares to go to each of his seven children. But as the effects of Alzheimer’s forced him to relinquish control, there was the question who would run the day-to-day team operations?

This went to a non-member of the family, but Bowlen placed the team into a trust that would choose which child might be a capable successor. Some of the guidance included a business-related or law degree, senior management experience in the league and qualities like leadership and sound judgment.

Trustees were tasked with making determinations of whether the list was adequately checked off. Bowlen’s second-oldest daughter may have been the first to claim she had completed the criteria. The trustee determination was, however, that she is not yet capable or qualified. Will any of his children successfully step up?

Choosing who makes the decisions and how much direction they need

This example highlights the need to consider doing earlier succession planning. Alzheimer’s can affect capacity and early onset can occur in the 50s.

Working with an estate planning attorney can help you with the details of who and how much guidance. An experienced professional can explain possible eventualities and help you develop strategies for a smooth transition.

For instance, consider how children will react to any sort of checklist. Could it lead to rivalry and conflict that destroys a close-knit family?

The morale: Start planning early, discuss your wishes and desires with loved ones and make updates if anything changes.

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