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Charlie Sanders’ $1.175M goes to wife, kids, trust

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit Lions great Charlie Sanders’ $1.175 million pension plan will be divvied up by his wife, their eight children and a trust in his name under a consent judgment approved this month by a federal judge in Detroit.

Georgianna Sanders, who remarried Sanders on June 26, 2015, allegedly at his hospital bed days before he died, will receive money in Sanders’ NFL pension plan account under the terms of an agreement approved June 8 by U.S. District Court Judge Robert H. Cleland.

Georgianna Sanders will get the money in the form of 10 years of monthly payments, with the beneficiaries being the couple’s eight children.

Sanders will also receive $6,000 under her husband’s NFL defined benefit plan, which as of last year had $256,320.26 in the account.

Under the terms of the consent judgment, $80,000 from that account will go into a Charles Sanders Revocable Trust and the remaining money — about $170,000 — will be paid in nine equal shares to beneficiaries which include Georgianna Sanders and their eight surviving children.

Sanders, a National Football League Hall of Famer, died at 68 from cancer on July 2. In addition to his 10-year playing career, Sanders was an assistant coach for the Lions from 1989 to 1996 and was in the scouting department since 1998.

In November, attorney Hans J. Massaquoi, representing the National Football League’s pension plan, filed a complaint against Georgianna Sanders and David Levine, the trustee for the Charles Sanders Revocable Trust, saying both had made “incompatible” claims to Sanders’ benefits.

According to emails included in court filings, Levine tried to claim the benefits for the Charles Sanders Revocable Trust on July 20 in a letter to Susan Bratten of Aon Financial Services.

Ten days later, Bratten told Levine via email that Sanders’ remarriage meant the trust was no longer the beneficiary.

Levin alleged in an email “there is a significant question as to whether the marriage is valid” and the benefits should be paid to a trust Sanders designated when he was unmarried in 2010 and an amended trust from 2014.

On Sept. 11, attorney Abraham Singer, representing Levine, sent Bratten a letter stating even if “some type of marriage ceremony” took place, Sanders was incapable of giving legally binding consent.

Georgianna Sanders, who sought a lump sum death benefit on Aug. 24, was informed on Oct. 6 that Aon was suspending payments while the plan administrator determines the correct party to pay.

Georgianna Sanders’ attorney, Armand Velardo, said on Thursday his client is happy with the consent judgment in which the NFL is giving her survivor benefits as his legitimate spouse.

“A lot of people worked hard to make this happen and she is happy. We got it done,” Velardo said.

Sanders played in 128 NFL games, starting 108, and made 336 catches for 4,817 yards and 31 TD.

JChambers@detroitnews.com