If you’re a sports fanatic, your most important possession might not be your house, car, or IRA—it’s your season tickets to the games of your beloved Cubs, Packers, or Giants. Family members may have a lot of interest in those tickets as well—especially in places like Green Bay, where the Packers’ Lambeau Field has been sold out to season ticket holders since 1960.
Season Tickets vs. Seat Licenses
Teams have two ways of selling the right to buy the same tickets to every game: season tickets and seat licenses. When it comes to your freedom to pass on your tickets, there are big differences between the two.
Generally, season tickets are contracts between the team and the buyer, which means the team can put whatever conditions it wishes on the deal. Most teams place extensive restrictions on how ticketholders can transfer season tickets, either during life or at death.
Seat licenses, offered by some college and professional sports teams, are something you buy and own—and can transfer to anyone you choose. Typically, you pay a large one-time fee for a seat license, and then pay for the season tickets each year. You can give or sell the seat license to someone, or leave it to a beneficiary at your death. One big exception: some licenses expire after a certain number of years.
Can You Leave Them in Your Will?
If you own season tickets, you probably cannot leave them in your will as you would other property. Several teams make a point of reminding owners of this; the Kansas City Royals website stresses that “Royals Season Tickets are not the property of the Season Ticket Holder of Record so cannot be treated as such in a will, trust or other property transfer method.”
If you can’t leave them in a will or trust, what can you do? Check to see whether or not the team has a form you can fill out in lieu of a will or trust. The Packers, for example, provide such a form. Most teams allow transfers only to immediate family members. But you may have more flexibility while you are alive than at your death. The Minnesota Vikings, for example, allow transfers to your spouse or children while you are alive; after your death, the tickets must go to your spouse.
In an interesting twist, the Packers allow only one individual to own season tickets--there's no co-ownership. This leads, no doubt, to some challenging family situations. For example, you could use the Packers-approved transfer form to leave your tickets to your daughter; but if you don’t fill out the form and have two children, your offspring will have to agree on which one of them will own the tickets. It’s probably not always an easy conversation in a town where the waiting list for Packers season tickets is said to have more than 80,000 names on it—but if they can’t agree, the tickets revert to the team.You can make your will online, quickly and easily, using Nolo's Online Will.
Surviving Family Members’ Rights
Many teams will transfer season tickets to your surviving spouse, period. That’s the policy of the San Diego Padres, for example, which requires a copy of the death certificate before it will allow the spouse to take over the tickets.
Some, like the Denver Broncos, permit transfers to immediate family members, which includes a spouse, parent, sibling, or child.
What happens 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—and to the next person on the season ticket waiting list.