The 2014 Winter Olympics start later this week in Sochi, Russia. There are about 3,000 athletes competing in nearly 100 different medal events in these Olympics. These games stem from a long tradition of gathering for the Games in ancient Greece, dating back to 776 B.C. The first modern Olympics were held in Athens in 1896. The first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France, in 1924. The Olympic Games have continued to involve more and more athletes from more countries. In the first Olympics of the modern era in 1896, 241 participants represented 14 nations, while in the 2012 Summer Olympics, 10,500 competitors represented 204 nations.
Today’s modern Olympians have unique estate planning concerns. After the snow settles and they return home, how does their estate planning differ from yours or mine?
First, of course, there is the medal itself. An Olympic medal is quite valuable. The medal in an Olympic gold medal could be worth $1,000 or more. Certainly, an Olympic medal represents far more than the value of the metal from which it is forged. The greatest economic value is as a collector’s item. The highest price paid was $1,466,574 in 2013 for one of four gold medals won by Jesse Owens in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. But, the greatest value to the athletes and their families might be the legacy, determination, and inspiration, which it represents. The medal may be left to the intended beneficiary through a simple bequest.
The physical items associated with the Olympics and their training also could have value. Items like his or her jersey or skates could be valuable as collector’s items. Like the medal(s), a simple bequest could leave these items. In fact, these items and the medal could even be left on a tangible personal property list which is referenced in the Will. This tangible personal property list could be updated without the formalities of a Will. The maker simply would need to sign it and date it. However, it may be better to leave the item in the Will specifically for the added assurance of the formalities of the Will.
Intangible property should be considered as well. The Olympian might have unpublished manuscripts or a journal that could have significant value. The physical work could be left to one person and the publication rights could be left to the same or a different person.
The rights to family photos and memorabilia might also have great value. Again, the physical photo and the rights to publication may be separated, if desired.
Here’s celebrating our Olympic athletes and the spirit of peaceful competition which they embody. Let’s hope they achieve their dreams.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555