Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Response to Treating Earned & Inherited Wealth Differently for Federal Estate Tax Purposes

Estat taxI recently reported on a New York Times op-ed piece by Ray D. Madoff entitled Protect the Farm, Tax the Manor, which argues for a much larger federal estate tax exemption for estates consisting primarily of family farms and businesses than estates consisting of inherited wealth.

On Saturday, Nov. 28, the Times published four letters to the editor in response to Madoff's op-ed piece.  The following summaries of these letters is taken from Hani Sarji, Readers respond to Ray D. Madoff's recent New York Times op-ed proposal, Future of the Federal Estate Tax, Nov. 20, 2009:

The first letter, by Robert Miller, highlights what he views as socialist overtones in Madoff's proposal. Miller thinks that Madoff's plan "echoes" Karl Marx. He also thinks that Madoff's plan discriminates against the estates of wage earners. He concludes by writing, "I earned that money and paid my taxes on it. It is mine and I want to give it to my hard-working kids, not to the government."

The second letter is by Melissa P. Walker, a trusts and estates lawyer in Atlanta. Walker would keep the exemption amount and rate as they currently are, and she would not give farmers and small business owners the special treatment that Madoff proposes. Walker believes that such provisions are already in the tax Code. She also believes that Madoff discriminates against "estates built through savings and investments."

The third, and longest, letter is by Steven Baker, a CPA in Florida. Baker strongly feels that farmers and small businesses already get special treatment. He writes, "After practicing estate planning for more than a decade, I can attest that I have yet to see a family farm or small business go under because of the estate tax."

The fourth letter is written by Michael Hepner, a benefits professional, and [Hani Sarji]. [They] argue that Madoff creates a "a false dichotomy between good and bad wealth."

See also N.Y. Times, My Estate Tax, Your Family Business, Nov. 28, 2009,


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