Conservative Christian Pat Robertson died in June at the age of 93. He left behind a massive estate that almost certainly entails some exceptional circumstances from a tax and legal standpoint. Robertson founded The Christian Broadcasting Network, Regent University, the American Center for Law and Justice, Operation Blessing, and International Family Entertainment. He was a political force who helped shape modern-day conservatism in the U.S. As longtime televangelist host of “The 700 Club,” he helped expand the influence of religion in today’s Republican Party, and he was known for divisive and often outrageous comments on numerous social issues.
Robertson was also extremely wealthy, according to Investment News’ recent article entitled, “‘700 Club’ founder Pat Robertson’s death raises estate planning questions.” In addition to an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars generated by the initial public offering of Robertson-owned International Family Entertainment in the early ’90s, the televangelist had a sprawling, 11,000-square-foot luxury retreat on 27 acres in rural Virginia, as well as other potential assets that could be part of his estate.
Robertson's estate also may have intellectual property rights, including religious recordings, ancillary interests in the network, and maybe even publicity rights, as his name and image carry value in the evangelical community. Publishing under his name may be profitable, which means it could be an asset of the estate.
Robertson's estate would be subject to distribution according to Virginia intestacy statutes if he didn't have a trust. This potentially could differ from his intentions as a religious leader. With his dedication to charitable efforts, it’s easy to think that he wanted to perpetuate the work of The 700 Club.
If Robertson did create a trust and included provisions to allocate a considerable portion to The 700 Club or other nonprofit organizations, he would have alleviated concerns regarding estate tax implications.
These types of bequests to nonprofit organizations are deductible against the estate’s value, which reduces the burden of estate taxes. Current tax laws allow unrestricted charitable bequests against an estate, making this a potent strategy for mitigating estate tax liabilities.
Charitable trusts prepared beforehand allow religious leaders to extend control of their donated assets beyond their lifetimes.
Reference: Investment News (June 9, 2023) “‘700 Club’ founder Pat Robertson’s death raises estate planning questions”
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