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Sick and Have a Chunk of Change? Duke Prof Says 15 Days Remain to Kill Yourself

RS Last week we wrote about Paul Caron's declaration that John E. du Pont had won the "estate tax lottery" by being fortunate enough to pass before the New Year.

Today, according to the ABA Journal (and, again, Caron's own Tax Prof Blog), we have another law professor -- Richard Schmalbeck of Duke (pictured, left) -- going on record as suggesting that, absent Congressional action, the imminent return of the "death tax" means that there will be blood between now and the time the big ball drops in Times Square in a couple of weeks.

Let him tell you the details:

The concern is with the people whose deaths would naturally occur in 2011, but whose death can be accelerated if the individual is so inclined. There may actually be a few cases of tax-inspired murder by the decedent’s heirs, but the legal consequences of murder are severe enough that it is unlikely to happen with any frequency.

Rather, the concern is suicide. Many among the several thousand wealthy people who would die of natural causes in 2011 already know that that outcome is highly likely. They are the people suffering from stage four cancers, advanced congestive heart failure, and other terminal conditions. It is not fanciful to imagine that several hundred, or even a few thousand, people in this group will give serious consideration to ending their lives in ways that will benefit their heirs financially.

I predict with grim confidence that we will learn of many such stories if Congress doesn’t quickly act to alter the incentive structure. Not only is the premature loss of life lamentable, but so too is the loss of the millions, or even billions, of estate tax that can and should be collected from these very wealthy estates. If Congress decides—either by acting or by failing to act—that we will have an estate tax in the coming years, why should it tolerate the existence of a holiday from the tax for the next two weeks?

If I were a terminally ill millionaire, I'd hold off on my call to Dr. Kevorkian for right now, as it seems a deal softening the blow of the tax's reinstatement is coming.

Posted by Eric Lipman on December 16, 2010 at 12:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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