The Juice Is Loose

I’m back with another fascinating celebrity estate plan case. And this one is a stark contrast to what we learned from Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse, or Whitney Houston’s estate planning woes. That’s because, reputation aside, I can certainly say that he had his estate plan well-planned. 

He may have been one of the most controversial people in recent memory. But you have to admit, Orenthal James Simpson was a Grade A athlete

If it weren’t for a few incidents that made him one of the most hated men in America, his legacy could have lived on as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. 

Before earning the alias Juice, Simpson was already showing signs of greatness in his first year at USC. By senior year, he had won the Heisman Trophy. Then, the Buffalo Bills selected him as the first overall pick of the 1969 Draft (amongst freak athletes like Mean Joe Green).

O.J. became the first NFL player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season, earning him the NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, and became the only NFL player to do so during a 14-game regular season. He was a five-time first-team All-Pro running back and five-time Pro-Bowler. Numerous AFC Offensive Player of the Year awards, rushing yards, and rushing touchdown leader awards. 

The list goes on. 

In 1985, he was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame—one of the highest honors an ex-player can achieve. 

Of course, all of this was quickly overshadowed in 1994, when 95 million viewers sat in disbelief in front of a TV screen watching a two-hour police chase of a white Ford Bronco. 

Which brings us to today, the impetus of this article. On April 10, 2024, OJ Simpson died of prostate cancer, resurfacing several emotions and memories evoked by this bleak day and the subsequent trials that followed.

In this article, I’ll talk about what we know about OJ Simpson’s estate and what we can learn about creditor protection from his well-thought-out estate plan. 

*Disclaimer: I’m not an attorney; this is not legal advice.*

What We Know

As everyone is well aware, following what is likely the most famous police car chase of all time—which brought a whole new meaning to the rallying call, “the Juice is loose”—OJ went through a long trial for the mysterious, gruesome murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman, for which he was acquitted. 

Watch the FX special The People Vs. O.J. Simpson if you want more of a dramatized reenactment of the events.

Although he faced plenty more legal battles, we’ll just focus on the financial troubles. 

In ‘97, Juice was unanimously found guilty in a criminal lawsuit against him for the wrongful death of Nicole and Ron. “Simpson was ordered to pay $33,500,000 in damages: $8.5 million in compensatory damages to the Goldman family, and $12.5 million in punitive damages to each family,” the Los Angeles Times reported. 

Today, that $33.5 million dollar judgment would be worth $66.5 million. And that’s on the low end, not including attorney wage inflation. 

Not to mention the $1.44 million in back taxes the state of California claimed he owed.

Perhaps if he just made an effort to pay the resulting suit and his back taxes, that would have been that, and he could have slid into some resemblance of normalcy.

But that just wasn’t the case for OJ. 

After yet another long trial for multiple felony counts, including armed robbery, kidnapping, and assault, he was sentenced to 33 years in prison for stealing his own stuff at a Vegas casino in 2009. He was released on parole almost nine years later.

And that really could have been the last time we heard from OJ to this very day if it weren’t for his love for social media. 

You could say that it goes to show his work ethic never faded even after all these years. Or you could argue that he never could get past his ego. 

Either way—if it weren’t for the combination of his Twitter bio reading “Hello Twitter World, It’s Yours Truly. If you don’t see it here, I didn’t say it” and his kids posting this—many of us would have never would have heard the news. 

His Estate

Following his passing a few months ago, his probate estate has been filed and is open to the public. 

Although it’s hard to say for sure if it was an original or was just last updated, the condensed Will posted was signed in January of this year. 

A 3-4 page Will is not uncommon in estate planning. This condensed version of a Will is what’s called a pour-over Will, which typically accompanies a trust that will be the ultimate beneficiary of the residual estate. Nearly all revocable trust packages will have a pour-over Will.

All Wills must be filed with a probate court. Therefore, we can only see his pour-over Will, which essentially transferred all remaining assets in his name to his Revocable Living Trust. 

His Will named Justin, Sydney, Jason, and Arnelle as his four children and nominated his longtime attorney-friend, Malcolm LaVernge, as his executor to carry out the details in his Will. LaVergne is now responsible for managing the estate. And possibly even the details of his Trust, too. 

What we don’t have access to is his Revocable Trust—one of the main benefits is sidestepping those nosey people out there from being able to see and write about it—nor any subsequent trusts created from it. 

The issue is he still owed a lot of money to the victim’s families even at death. And now his estate does. 

The Power of Creditor Protection

So, how did he avoid paying the victims’ families for so long?

Well, most of his assets were placed in retirement plans, and he received most of his income from the NFL and other pensions. This is important because most retirement assets and pensions have some built-in creditor protection by federal law. 

To a broader extent, this shines a spotlight on asset protection.

Asset protection could be crucial in an estate plan because it offers protection from creditors, lawsuits, or any judgments against your estate. 

If he truly wanted to leave his kids any inheritance, he would likely leave any assets that passed to them in Trust—specifically, an irrevocable trust—to shield them from their own predators and creditors, such as divorces, bankruptcy issues, or lawsuits.

OJ’s choice to establish his trust in Nevada also highlights the significance of considering the trust’s jurisdiction.

Nevada is one of 17 Trust-friendly states that offer domestic asset protection trusts (DAPTs). These trusts are said to “offer the strongest protection you can find from creditors, lawsuits, or any judgments against your estate.”

However, these trusts do have stipulations to be aware of, and regardless, we have no idea if OJ transferred any assets to an irrevocable trust like a DAPT before his death. 

Most reports say it is unclear when or how much the Goldman and Brown families will receive assets from the estate, but they will likely get something. 

Judgment Day

It’s hard not to think that OJ could have been a very rich man from his days as a superstar from endorsement deals, TV appearances, or OJ merch. Gatorade would have had a field day with “The Juice is Loose.”

However, the reality is that OJ Simpson’s legacy is forever tainted.

It’s still unclear how much of Simpson’s estate will go to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. However, the lesson to be had is that you don’t need to be famous to have creditors trying to get assets from your estate. 

Simpson’s situation is a clear reminder that no matter who you are, careful planning could ensure your financial wishes are respected and your family is taken care of. This is especially important if you want to leave something behind for loved ones while keeping it safe from creditors.

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