News & Legislation

Inside Joe Paterno’s Estate Planning Ploy

joe-paternoJoe Paterno’s transfer of home ownership to his wife in July most likely was not an attempt to shield assets before a sexual-abuse scandal hit Pennsylvania State University’s football program. Instead, the move by the legendary coach more likely was made to take advantage of expiring estate tax rules, lawyers said. Mr. Paterno switched ownership of his ranch-style home in State College, PA from joint ownership with his wife, Susan, to her full ownership on July 21 in a $1 transaction, according to documents filed in Centre County, PA.

A New York Times story suggested that the move could have been an effort to shield the home from future lawsuits that may arise from the child abuse scandal that was first revealed early this month. But attorneys familiar with Pennsylvania law said that the property already was protected from creditors because it was jointly owned and therefore couldn’t be subject to creditors of only one of the spouses. The only way that the house, valued at $594,484, could be exposed to creditors is if both Mr. Paterno and his wife were targeted in a lawsuit, lawyers said.