mod (Andy) note: "Blast from the past - Best of Eddie" If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.
I know Halloween was a few days ago, but I can't resist the ghoulish temptation to write about this novel approach to estate planning. As most of you know, the year 2010 has become a de facto estate tax holiday for those estates normally subject to the tax. But all good things must come to an end, and on January 1, 2011, the estate tax goes back to a punishing 55% of all assets over $1 million.
As with most things in life (and death, apparently) timing is everything.
This creates an interesting ethical dilemma. Do you love your family enough to swallow a bullet before New Year's Eve if it meant you could save them several million in estate taxes? Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis says she has wealthy constituents who are discontinuing dialysis and other treatments now in order to beat the clock and pass their ranches and businesses on to their children without the feds getting their grubby paws on it.
I can see where this bit of estate planning might appeal to those who are aged or infirm. If you know you're probably checking out in the next six months anyway, why not settle in for the dirt nap a little early and preserve the wealth you worked your entire life to build? It's an especially appealing notion to those whose wealth is comprised primarily of illiquid assets such as a business or large tracts of real estate. These assets would have to be sold to satisfy the tax, effectively destroying a life's work.
But what about those deca-millionaires who aren't sick? Or the ones who aren't even particularly old yet? It's one thing to trip over Granny's life support power cord, it's another thing entirely to have an otherwise healthy person say, "Well, this is the best thing for my family financially."
Some of you might find this hard to believe, but I try to find the bright side in nearly everything. Think of the kick ass Christmas party you'd throw this year if you knew you were going to save your family millions of dollars (or potentially billions, as in the case of Dan Duncan).
Don't think of it as suicide, think of it as eXtreme estate planning (everything's better when you put eXtreme in front of it, right?). Could you bring yourself to do it for the money? Is it an issue of how much you love your family? Be honest, now. How many of you are going to sidle over to Gramps at Christmas this year and ask him what he's got planned for the next week (hint, hint)?
What a world we live in that taxation (or in this case double, triple, and quadruple taxation) is so onerous that suicide has become an estate planning tool. You're better off spending every penny while you're alive.
At what point would you consider it? $1 million for your family? $10 million? $100 million?