Did Joe Paterno Transfer Home to Wife for $1 to Protect His Asset?
Ever since a child sex abuse scandal rocked Penn State on Nov. 5, 2011 with the arrest of a former defensive coach and two school officials, the ranch home of Joe Paterno in the heart of State College has been the site of ongoing vigils for students and others who can’t fathom how one of college sports’ most iconic figures could have fallen so far, so fast.
Now there’s more news about Paterno’s home on McKee Street, where Paterno and his wife, Sue, greeted rowdy students who took to the streets after Paterno’s surreal firing in the wake of the monstrous scandal.
Was the $1 transfer sale of Paterno’s house to his wife, Sue, back on July 21 part of estate planning for the 84-year old former head football coach at Penn State?
Or, as The New York Times suggested, could the $1 sale have been pre-emptive move by Paterno to protect the $594,484.40 asset from potential lawsuits?
Paterno has not been charged with any crimes in connection to the arrest of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who faces 40 counts of child sex abuse charges after a Pennsylvania grand jury findings called Sandusky a serial child molester who used his Second Mile charity to lure young boys. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office said Paterno met the legal requirement of reporting up the chain of command when it came to a 2002 incident of alleged sexual abuse by Sandusky.
However, with the arrest of Sandusky, and two prominent Penn State officials who are charged with lying to the grand jury, experts have expressed the opinion that Paterno could face civil suits for his role in an almost unfathomable series of events where college officials did not notify police about alleged incidents of sex abuse by Sandusky of young boys — some of which took place in Penn State locker rooms.
According to the NY Times, University of Pittsburgh law professor Lawrence A. Frolik, an elder law expert, said he has never heard of a husband selling his share of a house for $1 to his spouse for tax or government assistance purposes.
I can’t see any tax advantages,” Frolik said. “If someone told me that, my reaction would be, ‘Are they hoping to shield assets in case if there’s personal liability?’ ” He added, “It sounds like an attempt to avoid personal liability in having assets in his wife’s name.”
However, Paterno’s attorney said the move was for estate-planning purposes.
Regardless of the motives for the $1 transfer “sale,” it is just another startling turn of events at one of college football’s most fabled programs. The Paternos’ home, situated as the symbolic heart of State College homes, where home values are currently $243,700, has been an integral part of the Paternos’ legend as the king and queen of Happy Valley.