Earlier this week, MDS pointed out a report that Gene Upshaw’s widow received $15 million in deferred compensation after the Hall of Fame lineman and former NFLPA executive director died following a brief bout with pancreatic cancer in 2008.
Tom Jackman of the Washington Post, who broke the news of the $15 million payout, also has tracked down some details regarding a legal fight over Upshaw’s will, which was scheduled to go to trial this week. The case ultimately was settled out of court.
Upshaw’s son from a prior marriage, Eugene Upshaw, III, challenged a will that was signed on the day Upshaw died, August 20, 2008. Eugene III claimed that his father “was in no condition to sign anything or give any instructions as he was sedated and not conscious.” Upshaw’s widow, Terri, claimed that her husband was “coherent and able to speak.”
But Upshaw wasn’t able to sign the will, so his friend, Norman Singer, signed it for Upshaw. Eugene III challenged the document because it gave his father’s entire estate, worth $19.7 million, to Terri. If Upshaw had died without a will, Virginia law (his state of residence) would have limited Terri’s share to only one third of the estate, with Eugene III and Upshaw’s two other children sharing the remaining two thirds.
Per Jackman, Eugene III was prepared to introduce testimony from medical experts, who would have testified that Upshaw “would not have appropriately appreciated the implications of any of the directions he allegedly gave to Norman Singer.” Though the ultimate division of the estate isn’t known, it’s safe to assume that Eugene III received a substantial share.
The obvious lesson here is that everyone with any assets needs to have a will. Upshaw’s death came quickly, too quickly for him to get his affairs in order. Even at age 63, he either assumed that the end was decades into the future — or he simply preferred not to think about it. That lack of planning resulted in two teams of lawyers making plenty of money as they sorted out the details.