Buffalo Bills sale expected to take two years or more

Mar 28, 2014

It may be more than two years before the Buffalo Bills are formally on the auction block, as the estate of owner Ralph Wilson goes through the legal process.

Whether rich or poor, the estate of someone who dies goes into probate. Some estates are resolved quickly.

Katherine Gauley says that's not necessarily true when it's a big estate, especially when there is a unique asset like a professional sports franchise.

A partner at Hodgson Russ, Gauley heads its Estates and Trusts Practice Group. She says it will take at least two years before the team could be sold.

"There are statutory periods required in which an estate has to stay open to allow creditors to show up, for example. There are statutory periods of time in which beneficiaries may be given the right to disclaim their interests in the estate," Gauley explained.

"Estate tax filings are due within statutorily prescribed time frames. So, estate tax returns are typically due within nine months from date of death."

Gauley says there are special procedures to appraise the value of a sports team. The IRS is familiar with specialist appraisers although they might question what are called "discounts" from the value for issues like low marketability or minority owners. Others have said that's not likely to happen with the Bills because Ralph Wilson was the team's sole owner and a huge market is expected to bid on the franchise.