By Mark Glassman
A moment, please, for the rich who did their heirs the courtesy of dying on time.
At least five American billionaires died in 2010: Mary Janet Cargill (agribusiness), Dan Duncan (oil), Walter Shorenstein (real estate), George Steinbrenner (shipping, Yankees), and John Kluge (television). And as each drew their last breath, perhaps they took some comfort in knowing their timing was excellent, financially speaking. The year-long suspension of the estate tax saved their families hundreds of millions at least. (It also cost the government as much.)
Now, the estate tax is coming back – although it won’t hit nearly as hard as did before this year’s full exemption. The expected passage of the new tax bill would extend the exemption for assets up to $5 million through at least 2011 and 2012. (Read Bill Bischoff’s explainer on the estate tax deal.)
What does this mean for the rich and ailing? Do keep an eye on your shifty-eyed nephew for the next couple of weeks; in spite of persistent complications and confusions, 2010 still appears to be the best tax year for you to die. But for those worth less than $5 million, just get well before 2013.