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Steve McNair's Estate Left in Limbo

2:50 PM, Jul 17, 2009   |    comments
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NASHVILLE, TN -- The family of at least one of Steve McNair's sons born before his marriage is gearing up to lay claim to an inheritance, a move that could set up a lengthy legal battle because the former Titans quarterback left no will.

Mechelle McNair's Nashville attorney, David Callahan, said Thursday she's determining Steve McNair's net worth. A Davidson County probate court judge granted the widow 60 days to complete that process in response to an emergency petition. In the meantime, she received the right to control the estate.

"I am sure that in due course there will be a discussion with everyone who has an interest in the estate," Callahan said. "At this point, there has not been any formal discussion."

The probate court filing says Mechelle McNair and sons Tyler, 11, and Trenton, 6, are heirs, but she can't confirm whether her husband's two eldest sons are actually his.

Steve McNair was shot and killed on July 4 by Sahel "Jenni" Kazemi, a 20-year-old woman he was dating and who ended her own life. The bodies were found at a Second Avenue condo McNair rented with a friend.

McNair's oldest son, Steven L. McNair Jr., is a senior and star wide receiver at Oak Grove High in Hattiesburg, Miss. His second son, Steven O'Brian Koran McNair, 15, lives in Mount Olive, Miss.

"He gave $500 a month for child support," said Cora McNair, the 15-year-old's grandmother and no relation to Steve McNair. "We don't know what's going on and don't know if he was entitled to anything. They need to get on board with this."

Cotina Feazell, the mother of McNair's oldest son, referred questions to Bus Cook, who was McNair's agent. Cook cited attorney-client privilege when asked about possible wills or trusts left behind by his client. No records have surfaced indicating McNair - who earned more than $75 million in NFL contracts over his 13-year career - set up trust funds or completed any estate planning.

Neither mother has filed documents in probate court here, nor were child support arrangements handled through the courts in Mississippi.

The fact neither married the NFL star won't necessarily stop their children from inheriting, attorneys said.

"Children from non-marital relationships are still eligible to inherit under state law," said Rose Palermo, a Nashville divorce attorney. "If there are issues, there will be blood tests and that sort of thing. They need to hire attorneys and make a claim."

Palermo and her husband represented the executors of late country artist Conway Twitty's estate. The battle over his estate went on for 14 years because Twitty was rewriting his will at the time of his death. That case was resolved in October 2007, with assets distributed to heirs.

"This is why you have to leave a will so your wishes and desires are carried out," Palermo said.

Sports agents shocked

Sports agents said they were incredulous McNair didn't leave a will. Typically, an NFL contract comes with trips to financial planners to protect the new wealth, said Steve Piascik, a financial planner for pro athletes and a registered financial adviser with the NFL Players Association.

"The first thing we talk about is a budget, an annual budget, with our clients," said Piascik, whose office is in Richmond, Va. "We get them estate attorneys who are part of the money management team. My job is to protect them and save them money.

"This is a great example for some guys who don't think they need life insurance or a will ... because a whole family can be rocked by a death."

Palermo said financial planners and estate lawyers can set up a myriad of "tax-saving devices." Without a will, she said, the estate and all its assets are subject to federal and state tax laws.

The federal government can extract up to a 45 percent probate tax.

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