Common superstition says that famous deaths come in threes, but the death of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner on July 13 makes four billionaire deaths in 2010. It’s hard to deny the significance of such events in a year when there is no estate tax.
According to the Associated Press Steinbrenner’s family is set to receive a tax break of “about $328 million” because of the estate tax repeal this year. This number, along with the millions of dollars saved (that would otherwise have gone to pay estate taxes) by the families of Dan L. Duncan, Walter Shorenstein, and Mary Janet Morse Cargill may inspire Congress to take action on the issue of the estate tax before the year is over. The Washington Post quotes Senator Bernard Sanders of R.I. as saying, “In the midst of this terrible recession, the idea of giving billionaires a massive tax break is obscene… Already we have four billionaire families who are not paying taxes — Steinbrenner’s being the last one. Many billions are being lost. We have to address that reality right now.”
Although there is still some talk of the possibility of the estate tax being reinstated retroactively, most lawmakers and attorneys agree that the further into 2010 we get the less likely this becomes. But missing out on the estate taxes of four billionaires has to hurt, and the members of Congress are not likely to drag their feet much longer. One way or another, we can soon expect to see the issue of the estate tax become a hot topic of debate in Washington. Our firm will keep you abreast of any changes to the law that could affect you, your loved ones, or your estate.