Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, July 12, 2010

Estate Tax is Giving People an Incentive to Die

Estate TaxAt the end of 2009, many people near death’s door forced themselves to stay alive until January 1, 2010 so that their heirs could avoid a 45% tax hit. As we near the end of 2010, the situation is reversed. By allowing the estate tax to lapse and then come roaring back in 2011, Congress has accidentally given people a death incentive.

The difference between someone with a $5 million estate dying at 11:59 p.m. on December 31 or 12:01 a.m. on January 1 is more than $2 million. For a $15 million estate, the difference could be close to $8 million.

The estate tax puts heirs in an especially awkward position. In 2009, people wanted their relatives to live, whereas at the end of this year, they may be tempted to pull the plug.

How are people dealing with this situation? Some are placing provisions in their Medical Power of Attorney that allow the agent to take estate taxes into consideration when making big decisions. Others are looking into physician-assisted suicide laws in Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Switzerland. Eugene Sukup, a Manufacturing company founder whose estate would face a $15 million tax hit in 2011, stated, “You don’t know whether to commit suicide or just go on living and working.”

Laura Saunders and Mary Pilon, Too Rich to Live?, W.S.J., July 10, 2010.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (WealthCounsel) and Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this to my attention.


Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Tax | Permalink

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