The most famous footballer in history died recently without a Will. What does this mean for his family and estate, and what lessons can be learned from it?
Soccer fan or not, you’d most certainly be aware of the news that Diego Maradona died last month at the relatively young age of 60 as the victim of a heart attack.
Maradona had wealth. He had fame. He had a talent which was unmatched in the history of his sport.
Despite all this, or maybe because of it, Maradona seemed to be completely unprepared for his demise. He was “caught offside” in the worst possible way.
Media reports have declared that the Argentine soccer legend passed away without leaving a Will and, as a result, a complex and drawn out probate trial will take place to sort out his Estate. Not to mention an undignified scramble by family, friends and associates who feel they qualify for a share of his “worldly goods.”
What are some of the implications of Maradona’s dying without a Will, and what lessons could we learn from it?
Maradona died at 60 - an age well below average life expectancy
Admittedly Maradona led a life of excess and made some questionable choices about his health and lifestyle. Even so, at 60, he died well before the average age of death in most developed countries. And his death was somewhat unexpected.
This is why at any age or stage of life, it’s important to have a Will in place. Like Maradona, we simply don’t know what the future holds, and it is critical that we have a plan in place to protect our loved ones against any and all eventualities.
Maradona was cash poor but asset rich - making it harder to divide his Estate
If media reports can be relied on, Maradona’s final bank balances were limited and the major part of his Estate consisted of real estate, luxury cars, jewellery and other property assets. Not to mention an “amphibious vehicle.”
Without a Will, it’s tricky to divide a property-based Estate among Beneficiaries. A court Administrator and lawyers will be left to negotiate on who gets what, and what a fair split of assets looks like. There may be sentimental issues at play and squabbles are bound to ensue. Without agreement, the Estate has to be valued and possibly sold off, leading to delays and huge administrative costs.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll ever have an amphibious vehicle to pass on - it’s wise to have a Will with specific directions on how you want to divide your property and other sentimental items.
Too many kids to count - a Will can provide for an extended and blended family
Maradona wasn’t just prolific in the goal scoring department, he notched up quite a tally when it came to partners and children.
A recent Reuters report quotes a Buenos-Aires based lawyer who is following the case as saying, “In the specific case of Maradona, he is divorced and has eight children, so the estate is divided by eight in an inheritance trial. It will be a complex process.”
Divorce, remarriage, and having children from past partnerships can result in huge complications when it comes to estate planning, and yet they are becoming increasingly common issues to deal with when it comes to applying inheritance laws.
Dividing property and assets among all the Beneficiaries who may have valid claims in such a situation can be messy and time-consuming, and often leads to significant conflict.
Many legal systems (Argentina being among them) have laws to protect spouses and children regardless of whether they’re mentioned in a Will.
Even with such legal protection, it’s still wise to create a plan for your Beneficiaries and what you want them to receive, especially if your family's circumstances are complicated. Plus, making a clear Will means your family can avoid what Maradona’s is now dealing with - the delays and costs associated with court administration.
With no Will, the probate for Maradona’s Estate is likely to be expensive, and very long!
Probate (the process of sorting out your Estate when you die) is something that can be way more drawn out and expensive than it needs to be when you don’t have a Will.
In addition, a court appointed Administrator could decide to divide your property and assets differently to the way you and your appointed Executor would choose.
This will most likely be what happens as the process of unravelling Madadona’s financial affairs winds on.
Perhaps, as in the controversial and historic World Cup final with England, he was relying on the “hand of God” to help him? We’ll never know, but one thing we can do is avoid the same fate by writing a Will before it’s too late.