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2010 Is Still the Best Year to Die

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.


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    • George, You stated: We shloud ALL pay EQUAL and FAIR taxes. Since you’re so concerned about equality, how about we have everyone pay those EQUAL and FAIR tax rates as well as getting EQUAL and FAIR salaries? Is that equal enough for you, or are you just going to pick and choose your ideology to fit your liking?You and you ilk just keep stating that people EARNED their wealth, completely disregarding the rough and dangerous working conditions of the blue collar class as if those citizens do not deserve a higher salary. Yeah, some wealthy did EARN their riches with great ideas like starting Ebay, Google, and Facebook, but others got their wealth strictly because they were at the top of their mountain. At the top there is no one to monitor their performance, like we’ve recently seen with GM and so many banks and financial institutions. Can you tell me what would happen to a blue collar worker if he couldn’t generate a profit for his supervisor. Would Joe-the-Plumber still have his job? Many, and probably most, top hats got to their elevated positions not because they are great at their jobs; they just got lucky a position up high became available and they were there to seize it. Had a more qualified individual appeared on the horizon, and there are plenty, the wiser would have taken the seat. And even if you are that bright mind who did develop a major software company or started a successful talk show, is your wealth completely self-deserving or are you just lucky a brighter mind hasn’t beat you to your idea the previous year? One shloudn’t view his riches as a result of his hard work and personal drive to succeed. Luck plays a major role in one’s accomplishments. So when you’re at the top, be thankful someone brighter with harder work ethic hasn’t beat you to your place.

About The Tax Blog

  • The Tax Blog brings together a team of award-winning tax journalists from the Dow Jones network and around the web to examine the tax issues, changes and legislation that affect families, investors and small business owners. Our contributors include Tax Report columnist Laura Saunders (WSJ), Tax Guy columnist Bill Bischoff and senior reporter Jilian Mincer (, retirement-focused reporter Anne Tergesen (WSJ), wealth management writer Arden Dale (Dow Jones Newswires), TaxWatch columnist Eva Rosenberg and personal finance reporter Andrea Coombes (MarketWatch), and reporter Alyssa Abkowitz (SmartMoney). They’ll provide the latest news and insight, mine the tax code for tips and loopholes, and answer your questions about tricky tax situations. Contact the The Tax Blog with ideas, suggestions or tax questions at