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Joe Paterno planning his estate or protecting his assets?

Famed and longtime college football coach Joe Paterno has been under incredible media scrutiny ever since allegations emerged that a member of his Penn State football staff sexually assaulted young boys. Many accuse additional staff members, including Paterno, of knowing about the abuse and covering it up.

A recent detail in the now ex-coach's estate planning has people wondering if Paterno was preparing for an onslaught of potential civil lawsuits. Back in July, he sold his share of his Pennsylvania home to his wife for $1. Was this part of his estate plan or clever means of asset protection?

Paterno's estate planning lawyers argued the latter, saying that he is going through a multi-year estate plan and that selling his portion of the house to his wife was simply a step in that process. Skeptics have drawn a conspiracy theory that suggests Paterno sold the house to his wife when authorities started to act on the sexual abuse. That way, if families of the alleged victims targeted Paterno in a civil lawsuit, his house would be safe.

Paterno bought the house jointly with his wife in 1969 for $58,000. It is now worth $594,484.40. Records show that he sold his portion for $1 along with "love and affection."

The motivation behind the transaction might never be known. Lawyers that weighed in on the matter in a recent New York Times article had split opinions on the matter. One claimed that the act was a blatant attempt at shielding Paterno's assets while another said it was harmless and coincidental.

Considering Paterno is 84 years old, no matter what his motives, it is wise for him to plan for his future. As Florida residents age, establishing an estate plan becomes very important. An estate plan can help conserve and distribute assets before and after death for the benefit of loved ones and charities.

Source: The Bleacher Report, "Joe Paterno: Is $1 estate sale tax shelter or estate planning?" Adam Wells, Nov. 16, 2011

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