Is It Time to Die, Yet?

If you are a younger person with small children, it is possible you considered the dates of arrival for those children in light of tax rules. As in, “Well, if she comes before January 1, I can claim her for this year’s tax filing.” Crazy, but true. Of course, this is the pleasant side of things.

There is also the not so pleasant side of things:

As of yesterday, the first day of 2010, the death tax — which can erase nearly half of a wealthy person’s estate when he or she passes away — has disappeared for one year.  According to an article printed in the Wall Street Journal, this change has made trying times all the more difficult for families facing end-of-life decisions.  In the days leading up to the New Year, Joshua Rubenstein, a lawyer with Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP in New York, explained the added burden that the law change has placed upon families:

I have two clients on life support, and the families are struggling with whether to continue heroic measures for a few more days.  Do they want to live for the rest of their lives having made serious medical decisions based on estate-tax law?

This unique situation is the result of legislation passed in 2001 which raised death tax exemptions and culminated with the elimination of the tax in 2010.

Boy, the law of unintended consequences looks as though it is still in full force, doesn’t it?

The Journal article makes note of one terminally ill real-estate entrepreneur who was determined to live until the law changed.  According to his lawyer:

Whenever he wakes up, he says: “What day is it? Is it Jan. 1 yet?”

It also reveals just how far some patients are willing to go to avoid the tax:

The situation is causing at least one person to add the prospect of euthanasia to his estate-planning mix, according to Mr. Katzenstein of Proskauer Rose.  An elderly, infirm client of his recently asked whether undergoing euthanasia next year in Holland, where it’s legal, might allow his estate to dodge the tax.

His answer: Yes.

It is past time to recognize how despicable a system is which profits from those who literally lie dying. There is necessary taxation and then there is punitive taxation. The more I consider it, the death tax (or estate tax, because it sounds less negative) is beyond punitive. It is outright theft.

4 thoughts on “Is It Time to Die, Yet?

  1. It is theft- because that person has already paid taxes on the money that is being left to their estate. It’s double taxation, and maybe one could argue, taxation w/out representation.

    1. Indeed, it is a taxation borne out of no desire for true fairness but rather a desire to generate more revenue from a difficult time in a family’s life.

      Theft really does seem the best descriptor.

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