Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Normally, property is valued in a decedent's estate at its fair market value as of the date of the decedent's death. The Code and Treasury Regulations bear this our. See I.R.C. §1014). But, neither the Code nor the regulations rule out the possibility that post-death events can have a bearing on the value for assets in a decedent’s estate. The real question is what post-death events are relevant for determining the actual date-of-death value of property for estate tax purposes.
Post-death events and their impact on valuation, that’s the topic of today’s post.
Cases on the Valuation Issue
The cases reveal that consideration may be given to subsequent events that are reasonably foreseeable at the date of death. Those events have a bearing on date-of-death value.
Numerous cases illustrate that it is simply not true that, except for the alternate valuation election under I.R.C. §2032, changes in valuation after death are immaterial. The following cases are illustrative:
- In Gettysburg National Bank v. United States, 1:CV-90-1607, 1992 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12152 (D. M.D. Pa. Jul. 17, 1992), property was sold to a third party in an arm’s length transaction 16 months after the decedent’s death (13 months after its appraisal for estate tax purposes) for less than 75 percent of the value at which it was included in the gross estate. The court allowed the estate to reduce its value, stating that the subsequent sale may be relevant evidence that the appraised fair market value was incorrect.
- In Estate of Scull v. Comr., C. Memo. 1994-211, sales of artwork at auction 10 months after the valuation date were the best indicators of fair market value for federal estate tax purposes notwithstanding that the market had changed in the interim, and the court applied a 15 percent discount to reflect appreciation in the market between the date of the decedent’s death and the auction.
- In Rubenstein v. United States, 826 F. Supp. 448 (S.D. Fla. 1993), the court determined that the best evidence of a claim’s value is the amount for which the claim was settled after the decedent’s death.
- In Estate of Andrews v. United States, 850 F. Supp. 1279 (E.D. Va. 1994), the court reasoned that reasonably foreseeable post-death facts relating to a publication contract under negotiation when the decedent died were germane to the determination of what a willing buyer would pay for the right to use the decedent’s name.
- In Estate of Necastro v. Comr., C. Memo. 1994-352, environmental contamination was discovered five years after the decedent’s death and the court allowed the estate to file a claim for refund, reducing the value from the value as reported, which was based on facts known at the date of death; the revaluation resulted in a reduction of over 33 percent from the value of the property determined before the contamination was discovered. The court’s opinion did not, however, address the substantive issue whether facts discovered after death may influence valuation if willing buyers and sellers would not have known the relevant facts as of the valuation date.
- In Estate of Jephson v. Comr., 81 T.C. 999 (1983), the court concluded that “[e]vents subsequent to the valuation date may, in certain circumstances, be considered in determining the value as of the valuation date.”
- In Estate of Keller v. Comr., C. Memo. 1980-450, the court stated that a “sale of property to an unrelated party shortly after date of death tends to establish such value at date of death. The property sold involved a farm and growing crop where both the sale of the farm and the harvesting of the crop occurred post-death.
- In Estate of Stanton, C. Memo. 1989-341, the court stated that the sale of the property shortly after death is the best evidence of fair market value. Under the facts of the case, the selling price of comparable property sold six months after the decedent’s death was also considered with a downward adjustment to reflect the greater development potential of the comparable property and the 10 months of appreciation that occurred after the decedent’s death in the actual estate property owned and sold.
- In Estate of Trompeter v. Comr., 279 F.3d 767 (9th Cir. 2002), the Tax Court was reversed for failing to sufficiently articulate the basis for its decision regarding omitted assets and the rationale for the valuation discount selected, but the court nevertheless considered the value of assets using post-death developments, including redemption for $1,000 per share of stock valued at $10 per share 16 months earlier, and a coin collection returned at roughly half the value subsequently assigned to it by the taxpayer’s estate in an effort to enjoin auction of that asset.
- In Morris v. Comr., 761 F.2d 1195 (6th Cir. 1985), the court considered speculative post-death commercial development events for purposes of valuing farmland in the decedent’s estate as of the date of the decedent’s death. The decedent’s farmland was approximately 15 miles north of downtown Kansas City and approximately five miles west of the Kansas City International Airport. At the time of death, plans were in place for a sewer line to service the larger of the two tracts the decedent owned. Also, residential development was planned within two miles of the same tract. In addition, significant roadways and the site for the planned construction of a major interstate were located close to the property. While none of these events had occurred as of the date of death, the court found them probative for determining the value of the farmland as of the date the decedent died. The decedent’s son, the owner of the farmland as surviving joint tenant, tried to introduce evidence of the failed closing of some post-death sales to support his claim that the post-death events were speculative. But, the court disagreed, establishing the value of the farmland at $990,000 rather than the estate’s valuation of $332,151.
The court’s opinion makes it look like that evidence to confirm an appraiser’s date-of-death prediction of future events is more likely to be received than evidence adduced to prove wrong an appraiser’s prediction concerning future events. In any event, however, the case stands for the proposition that post-death events are relevant for establishing death-time value – even if they are somewhat speculative.
- In Okerlund v. United States, 365 F.3d 1044 (Fed. Cir. 2004), the court dealt with the issue of stock valuation in a closely held company for stock that was gifted shortly before the company founder died and the company (a milk processing operation) suffered a salmonella outbreak. The taxpayers argued that these events should result in a lower gift tax value of the stock, with the issue being the relevance of post-death events on the value of the gifts. The court stated that “[i]t would be absurd to rule an arms-length stock sale made moments after a gift of that same stock inadmissible as post-valuation date data….The key to use of any data in a valuation remains that all evidence must be proffered in support of finding the value of the stock on the donative date.” The court ultimately affirmed the trial court’s denial of a lower gift tax valuation based on the reality that the risk factors (the founder’s death and matters that could materially affect the business) had already been accounted for in the valuation of the stock.
Clearly, post-death events and other facts that are reasonably predictable as of the date of death or otherwise relevant to the date of death value can serve as helpful evidence of value and allow either an increase (to obtain a higher income tax basis) or decrease (to reduce federal estate tax) in value as a matter or record. For farmland (and other real estate) the market is not static as of the date of death. Thus, appraisers can reasonably look to the arc of sales extending from pre-death dates to post-death dates in arriving at the date-of-death value.