Beneficiaries’ Rights: Can I Prevent Michael Vick from Starting?

September 22, 2010

From 1949 to 1963, the Philadelphia Eagles were owned by about one hundred local businessmen, known as the “100 Brothers”. Each member, one of whom was my great uncle, paid about a $3,000 share to get in, and made a nice profit once they got out. My parents ended up with season tickets for awhile, a coin that got us into certain movies for free (until those theaters were sold in the late 1970s), and a lot of fun memories.

As for now, being a great nephew of a former 1% owner from 50 years ago does not carry as much weight as you would think. After hearing enough comments like “so, where’s your ticket”, “a free what?”, or “no, we don’t need your opinions on the salary cap”, I got the hint. It’s almost as if I am some kind of … outsider!

About six months ago, without consulting me, the team traded away their superstar quarterback, Donovan McNabb. The team attempted to ease the worries of its fans (and distant relatives of former owners, no doubt) by reassuring us that the young Kevin Kolb would be able to meet our expectations.

Murphy’s law being in full play, Kolb succumbed to a concussion in the first half of the opening game two weeks ago, and has not played since. Michael Vick, the guy who recently spent 21 months in prison for running a dog fighting ring, replaced Kolb, and has played quite well in Kolb’s absence.

This past Monday, Eagles head coach Andy Reid emphatically stated that Kolb would be the starter when ready, but then reversed course yesterday and named Vick the starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. What changed Reid’s mind so quickly, especially after six months of holding firm with Kolb? Was this truly Reid’s decision? Are the Eagles better with Vick?

What if you had a future interest in the asset? What if the value of the team decreased from the decision? Can an eventual beneficiary have any say on day-to-day decisions? Analogously, can a potential beneficiary protect assets like stocks, real estate, or personal items from mismanagement?

First, the beneficiaries must prove that they have a current (or “vested”) interest in the property. Someone listed in a will or revocable trust will not have a vested interest, since the owner can still change beneficiaries. In our example, I would need an interest that vested during my uncle’s ownership and survived the four successive ownerships.

Once a trust or will’s terms become irrevocable (by design or due to the owner’s death), the beneficiary will have vested rights enforceable in court. In addition to the terms listed in the trust itself, the beneficiary is generally entitled to notification, a copy of the trust, the right to accountings, and to sue the trustee for any wrongful acts, including the unreasonable creation of waste in the asset.

For instance, for me to challenge the Vick decision, I would need to prove incompetence, conflicts of interest, etc., as discussed in this post. I would also need to show that Vick starting depreciates (or “wastes”) the value of the Eagles and is a rash and imprudent investment beyond day-to-day concerns.

My guess is that I currently do not have a very good chance of success (the phrase “frivolous suit” comes to mind). All kidding aside, if you are a beneficiary of a will or a trust, be aware of your rights and be active in making sure they are being attended to.

 Beneficiaries’ Rights:  Can I Prevent Michael Vick from Starting?


Scott R. Zucker, Esq. is the owner of The Zucker Law Firm PLLC, located just outside the Capital Beltway in Annandale, within five miles of the City of Fairfax, the county seat of beautiful Fairfax County, Virginia. The firm focuses mainly on estate planning services for Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania clientele, and seeks to do so in an affordable and approachable way. People interested in learning more can contact Scott by phone or email.

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3 Responses to Beneficiaries’ Rights: Can I Prevent Michael Vick from Starting?

  1. JMill
    September 24, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    In other words, if you were to complain to Eagles management about their decision to play Vick ahead of Kolb, they’d tell you that “you have no dog in that fight.” Uhhh . . . maybe that was a bad choice of words.

    Now, if only sports commentators would stop referring to Kevin Kolb as the “heir apparent” to Donovan McNabb’s spot as the team’s starting QB, we’d be on to something. After all, with McNabb gone, Kolb went from “heir apparent” to “heir.” There was nothing “apparent” about it when McNabb died . . . I mean, got traded to Washington. Can someone go from “heir apparent” to “heir” and then back to “heir apparent” again??

    Anyway, keep up the entertaining and informative blogging.

    • Scott
      September 24, 2010 at 8:02 pm

      Mr. Miller–

      Well, I suppose Kolb was a contingent beneficiary, as in “you remain heir apparent unless you play like a ‘dog’”.

      Actually, have you heard the stories that the Eagles are protecting Kolb since their offensive line cannot protect him? So does that mean that they are they throwing Vick to the “wolves”?

      Anyway, thanks for your comments!


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