Basketball announcer Craig Sager’s will issues have hit the Twittersphere. The blogs, news reports and tweets say that Sager’s surviving spouse is taking his children from a prior marriage to court over his will.
A number of reports attempted to sensationalize the reports by tying the fact that Craig’s son, Craig, Jr. was written out of the will shortly after he provided stems cells for his father. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know. I can tell you that I see a lot of family dynamics after someone dies and sometimes families go at it.
The Sager Story
Longtime basketball announcer Craig Sager died in December 2016 after a battle with Leukemia. He was originally diagnosed with the condition in 2014.
Mr. Sager had 3 children from his first marriage. In 2001 or 2002, he remarried and had 2 children from his second marriage.
The news reports regarding his will started in early January 2018 after a tweet from Craig, Jr. about being served with a court document from the Cherokee County, GA probate court.
The Twittersphere started and there were statements that the children from the first marriage were identified in the will but that Mr. Sager didn’t leave them anything. Apparently, the Estate’s assets were left to his current.
The Twittersphere also noted that the 3 adult children knew the contents of the will and they weren’t going to contest the will, if that was their father’s desire. Other folks tweeted that they should contest the will.
Craig Sager II tweeted that he was being:
taken to court over a will that myself and my sisters are not only 100% excluded from but do not even have any interest in contesting in the first place.
The following day, his sister, Kacy, issued a statement:
We knew he left her everything. We knew his original will had been revised to exclude us,”… And honestly? We didn’t care…. It sucks so damn hard that, after months without communication, our first ‘contact’ with Stacy was through lawyers and the poor sheriffs who had to waste their time serving us.
The Cherokee County court records are not available for download online. Deadspin identified some paragraphs of the will, specifically, the residuary clause left everything to Mr. Sager’s surviving spouse.
The fact that Mr. Sager’s adult children received a court document regarding the will’s probate may not be an adversarial matter. It could just be notice that the will is going to be administered and giving the children notice that they have the ability to object to the administration within a certain amount of time or their legal rights would be forfeited.
Can the Kids Challenge the Will?
I have no idea because the news reports do not have all the facts. Georgia law will apply to any dispute. The Probate process and law is different in every state. The reports don’t identify the date the will was written or changed. If the will was changed shortly after Mr. Sager’s young children were born, then there is probably no way the will can be challenged. On the other hand, if the will was changed shortly before his passing, then there may be a way to challenge the will.
I can talk to the issue in Florida and under Florida law. The main type of challenge in this factual scenario would be a claim for undue influence. These types of cases are very fact specific. An undue influence claim in Florida has a number of facts that a court will look at and balance. The facts include:
- The presence of the beneficiary at the execution of the will;
- The presence of the beneficiary on those occasions when the testator (the person making the will) expressed a desire to make the will;
- The beneficiary recommending the specific attorney to draw up the will;
- The beneficiary having knowledge of the contents of the will before the testator signed the will;
- The beneficiary giving instructions on the preparation of the will to the attorney that is drawing up the will;
- The beneficiary securing or getting the witnesses to the signing of the will together; and
- Safekeeping of the will by the beneficiary after the testator signed the will.
Florida courts will also look at the difference in mental toughness between the testator and beneficiary. This factor doesn’t go the capacity to make the will, but it goes to the nature of the relationship. Some folks have control, a whammy, or a spell over other people. If the beneficiary controls the testator, a court will take this fact into consideration when looking at undue influence.
Finally, even if the beneficiary had magical power over the testator, and made the appointment with the lawyer, accompanied the testator to the lawyer, put in his/her two-cents during the meeting, was present at the signing and took possession of the will after the signing, a court may not fine undue influence, if the terms of will are fair.
Probate courts are courts of equity and fairness is paramount.
I feel sorry for the Sager family and the fact that this stuff is out in the open. If these situations escalate they can destroy families. I have seen families that no longer talk because of things that transpired after a loved-one passed away.
And this is always the greatest question that you need to ask if you are thinking about challenging a will – is it worth it?