Hurley Burish and Stanton, SC Attorneys at law

Craig Sager and the Age Old Estate Planning Question: To Probate or not to Probate?

Craig Sager was a popular sports reporter, primarily for the NBA, and perhaps best known for his loud attire and flashy wardrobe. Sager passed away from leukemia in December of 2016, survived by his second wife and five children (three from his first marriage and two from his second). Sager’s last will and testament, which is currently being offered for probate, apparently disinherits the three adult children from his first marriage.

What is unique about the Sager estate is that the three disinherited children are not actually contesting the offered will. Instead, Craig Sager, Jr. took to Twitter to voice his displeasure at having to be served notice by a sheriff of the probate petition and the will that disinherits him. Undoubtedly feeling as though such a process flaunts his disinheritance in his face, Sager Jr. tweeted “I’m not in it + I’m not fighting = Leave me alone!”

The Sager estate highlights one of the primary reasons that individuals with relatively simple estates still prefer to avoid probate: privacy.

I’m of the belief that probate is not the “worst case scenario” result that many make it out to be. In fact, for a simple estate that leaves everything to a surviving spouse or children and does not disinherit anyone, probate can be a very straightforward process. The probate court is often helpful in keeping your executor on task, setting various deadlines for steps throughout estate administration.

That being said, probate proceedings are conducted through the county courts in Wisconsin. As such, they create a public record. Theoretically, anybody (including the media) could go down to the courthouse and access records containing intimate details about your estate, often including the value thereof.

Not only is it public record, but initiating the probate proceedings requires the petitioner to serve notice to each of the intestate heirs (those individuals that would receive a portion of the estate if the decedent died without a will) of the petition for probate and provide a copy of any will being offered. In Sager’s case, the petitioner served this notice formally, with the assistance of the sheriff. If an intestate heir is disinherited by the will, such a notice requirement may serve to add salt to the wound of the individuals grieving the death of their loved one.

The Sager case also highlights the other primary reason people with non-complex estates create revocable trusts: efficiency. As noted above, probate proceedings have very strict requirements on what is required to grant someone the authority to act as executor. Someone has to petition the courts, provide notice to the intestate heirs, and address any objections before they can be named executor. In Sager’s case, he passed away in December of 2016 and it is only now in 2018 that the petition for probate his will is being served on the intestate heirs. Alternatively, the only grant of authority a successor trustee needs is that provided by the trust document itself.

Craig Sager’s estate is unique (as far as Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes go) in that the disinherited children are not actually contesting the petition for probate. However, a revocable trust would have spared his children the embarrassment of being served notice of their disinheritance by the sheriff and the subsequent media circus surrounding what should be a very private matter. It also would have given a successor trustee the ability to deal with the trust’s assets immediately, thereby giving the grieving family some comfort that the affairs were being handled.

A well thought out estate plan is a gift from you to your surviving family and friends. Proper planning and decisions during your life can spare your loved ones additional stress while they grieve the loss of you. At Hurley, Burish, & Stanton, SC, we can help you make sure that your decisions are well articulated and effective upon your passing. Contact Atty Tom Vercauteren at or (608) 257-0945 to schedule your no obligation initial estate planning consultation.