Celebrity Estate Lessons: Aaron Hernandez

Aaron Hernandez
Aaron Hernandez was a promising up-and-coming tight end in the NFL. After graduating from UF, he went on to play with the New England Patriots from 2010-2012. He was arrested in June 2013 for the murder of Odin Lloyd, who was dating his fiancée's sister. In a change from the norm, the issues in the estate plan of Aaron Hernandez don't stem directly from his lack of estate planning (although he didn't have a Will). Instead they lie in the way inheritance laws are written in Massachusetts.
During his trial for the killing of Lloyd, evidence pointed to Hernandez's taking part in a 2012 double homicide, also in the Boston area. He was found guilty of murdering Lloyd, but was acquitted in criminal court for the double homicide. The family members brought a wrongful death civil suit, which was settled out of court.
Convicted of murder in 2017, Hernandez committed suicide a few days later. This is where the weird Massachusetts law comes in. Murder convictions receive an automatic appeal in the state. However, if a convicted person dies before the appeal is heard, defense lawyers can seek to have the conviction vacated. Although this did happen, the ruling was overturned by the state's Supreme Court. The abatement rule was also put to an end.
While he was awarded a hefty contract by the Patriots, this was not completely paid out. They still owed him about $6 million dollars at the time of his death. Hernandez only had about $50,000 of assets when he died and most of this was taken up covering court costs, loans, and his large debt to the IRS.
Today's moral? Although it is an extreme example with much larger issues, it is important to have a good understanding of the intestate laws of the state in which you live. They may seem straightforward, but even when murder trials are not involved, changing circumstances often give rise to unintended consequences.