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From the Sidelines to the Spotlight: The Craig Sager Estate

Craig Sager was a longtime sideline reporter for Major League Baseball (“MLB”) and the National Basketball Association (“NBA”) who passed away at the age of 65 after a two year battle with acute myeloid leukemia in 2016. He was cherished by many athletes and sports fans alike.

Craig Sager was well-known for the outlandish post-game questions he asked coaches and players as well as his eccentric suit choices that often rivaled that of Canada’s own Don Cherry (though in this writer’s humble opinion, not nearly as iconic). Sports fans loved Craig Sager because he often poked and prodded professional athletes and coaches on national television while he wore lilac, orange, banana yellow, black and lime green outfits.[1] After being diagnosed in 2014, Sager continued to work during what became a highly public illness. He often received blood transfusions to be strong enough to travel to some games, and returned to a hospital after others.[2] As his illness progressed, Craig Sager had three bone marrow transplants, including two from his oldest son. Ultimately, Craig Sager passed away on December 15, 2016, just two days after he was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame, a career honor which validated his expertise and demonstrated the respect he had amongst his peers.

However, much like the fashion risks he made during his career, Craig Sager’s memory has become highly scrutinized due to his “interesting” estate planning choices and a high publicized social media feud between his three adult children from his first marriage with Lisa Sager (Craig Sager Jr., Kacy Sager and Krista Sager) and his second wife, Stacey Jo Sager (“Stacey Jo”). In early January 2018, Craig Jr. and Kacy Sager revealed via twitter that they had effectively been disinherited from their father’s Last Will and Testament (the “Will”). Allegations were also made that Stacey Jo and Craig Sager’s relationship had started while he was still married to his first wife. On January 3, 2018, TMZ Sports obtained a copy of the Will and discovered that all of Sager’s children from his first marriage were left without any of his money, real estate properties, or hotel/airline miles. The Will also revealed that Sager left all of his property to Stacy Jo who was also named as the executor.

Recently, Stacey Jo opted to have the Will probated in solemn form. Unlike the comparatively simpler process of probating a will in common form, probating a will in solemn form in the state of Georgia requires that all living heirs, regardless of whether they’re named in the will, and regardless of whether they have any plans to contest it, be notified so that they can formally acknowledge the will to the court.[3]

In Romans Estate v Tassone, in 2009, Justice Savage of the British Columbia Supreme Court, explained the practical implications of having a will proved in solemn form.[4] In particular, he noted that having a will proved in solemn form allows the principle of res judicata to apply to the will’s validity. Justice Savage stated:

Often proof of a will in common form is all that is required for the administration of an estate where there is a will.  Proof in common form, however, does not conclusively determine the will to be the valid last will of a person.

Proof of the will in solemn form provides some protection for the will, in that it will not later be set aside, unless obtained by fraud or a later will is found.[5] Justice Savage also noted that “[t]he safeguarding effect of a grant in solemn form is an application of the principle of res judicata to what is a judgment in rem”. If there is any doubt as to the validity of a will or any apprehension that there may be opposition to it, it is open to the executor, or if there is no executor the person entitled to administration with the will annexed, to prove it in solemn form.[6] If the will is proven in solemn form, or per testes, it must be proven in open court, upon notice to all interested persons, and will not be admitted to probate unless the court is satisfied of the due execution of the will, the testator’s knowledge and approval of its contents, his capacity and non-revocation.[7]

In a series of subsequent tweets on social media over the past week, Kacy Sager has pointed out that the Sager children just want to “move on.” Kacy Sager also referred to Stacy Jo Sager as being “paranoid/greedy,” and that the children had no intention of contesting their father’s will. Ultimately, the Sager family feud is another example of how the distribution of an estate as well as the method of probate an executor chooses can drive a wedge between a family.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/15/sports/basketball/craig-sager-dead-sportscaster.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://deadspin.com/craig-sagers-will-leaves-nothing-to-his-children-from-h-1821827463

[4] 2009 CarswellBC 377, 2009 BCSC 194, [2009] B.C.W.L.D. 2703, [2009] B.C.W.L.D. 2774, [2009] B.C.W.L.D. 2776, 177 A.C.W.S. (3d) 263, 47 E.T.R. (3d) 286

[5] Tristam & Cootes Probate Practice (27th Edition, 1989, p. 572.  As noted by the authors of the British Columbia Probate & Estate Administration Manual, 2nd Edition, 2008 Update, at p. 18-17

[6] 17 Halsbury’s Laws (4th) para. 866

[7] Oosterhoff on Wills and Succession, 6th Edition, 2007, Thomson, Carswell, p. 44

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