If the deceased person owned season tickets or seat licenses for a favorite sports team, you may get some not-so-subtle inquiries from surviving family members about who’s going to inherit them. In some places, inheriting season tickets is just about the only way to get yourself into a professional or college game. To get into a Duke University men’s basketball game, for example, you have to donate thousands to the school—and then get on a waiting list.
First of all, you need to determine whether the deceased person owned season tickets or seat licenses. It makes a big difference for inheritance purposes.
A season ticket is a contract between the team and the buyer, and the team can put whatever conditions it wishes on the deal. Most teams severely limit how ticketholders can transfer season tickets, both during life and at death.
How Season Tickets Can Be Left at Death
Most season tickets cannot be left to inheritors through a will or trust. For example, it’s the explicit policy of the San Diego Padres that “Season tickets are not the property of the season ticket customer so cannot be treated as such in a will, trust or other property transfer method.”
Some teams, however, provide an official transfer form. If the deceased person filled out a valid transfer form, it serves the same function as a will.
Restrictions on Who Can Inherit Season Tickets
Again, teams are free to put restrictions on transfers at death, and many restrict transfers to close family members.
Many teams will transfer season tickets to the surviving spouse, period. That’s the policy of the Minnesota Vikings and the San Diego Padres, both of which request a copy of the death certificate before allowing the spouse to take over the tickets.
The Denver Broncos permit transfers to a spouse, parent, sibling, or child. The Broncos provide a transfer form, collect a fee, and demand documents (birth certificate, for example) that show that the new owner is really an immediate family member. Only the personal representative (executor) of a deceased ticket owner can sign the transfer form.
The Packers allow only one individual to own season tickets. So if a season ticketholder didn’t name one inheritor in the Packers-approved transfer form before death, and leaves two children, the offspring must agree on who will own the tickets. The Packers organization is willing to help family members negotiate—probably a good idea, given that the waiting list for season tickets reportedly has more than 80,000 names on it. If family members can’t agree, the tickets revert to the team.
If there’s no surviving family member who is allowed, under team rules, to take over the season tickets, the tickets go back to the organization. So although more distant relatives may be crushed, the next person on the season ticket waiting list will be very happy.
Seat licenses, offered by some college and professional sports teams, are assets that fans buy and own—and can transfer to anyone they choose. Typically, a purchaser pays a large fee (tens of thousands of dollars, in some places) for a license that’s attached to particular seats, and then has the right to buy season tickets each year.
A few of the pro teams that currently offer seat licenses include the Chicago Bears, Pittsburg Steelers, New York Jets, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, and Utah Jazz.
Unless the seat license is only for a term of years, as some are, the buyer owns it outright. The owner can give away or sell the seat license, or leave it to a beneficiary at death through a will or trust. If the deceased person’s will doesn’t mention the season tickets, they will pass under the “residuary clause” of the will—that is, the clause that names someone to inherit all assets not specifically left to another beneficiary.