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South Florida Estate Planning Law Blog

Insight & Commentary on Estate Planning, Wills, Trusts, Probate & Taxation

Columnist in one of New York’s Poorest Counties Sees the Estate Tax as a “Major Issue”

Hi Y’all. I’m back. Sorry for the big break in posting. I’ll try to do better.

In this election year, I haven’t heard that much talk about the estate tax – or as the Republicans like to call it, the “Death Tax.” As I’ve written about before, the estate tax is imposed upon your death on any property that you own over the lifetime exemption amount. That amount is currently $5,000,000 a person, or $10,000,000 a married couple. That means that unless a husband and wife have over ten million dollars in total assets, the estate tax will not apply to them. There will be no (federal) tax at all upon their deaths.

Which is why I found this column, “Estate tax is a major issue,” in the Dunkirk, NY Observer so curious. After waxing philosophical about death and taxes, the columnist writes, “Of the political candidates currently running for president, besides the incumbent, there was only one candidate who spoke of removal or lessening of the estate tax. If this gentleman withdraws from the political race as a leader of the free world, so be it. If he “in for the long haul” as he says, he’ll have my vote and I’ll encourage all those who have a disability or know of someone who has a disabled family member to vote for this candidate.”

I hadn’t heard of Dunkirk, NY, but reading this column I assumed that it was a wealthy suburb of New York – somewhere where the 0.1% live. But according to Wikipedia, “The median income for a household in the city was $28,313, and the median income for a family was $35,058. Males had a median income of $29,462 versus $21,682 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,482. About 18.5% of families and 22.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 38.0% of those under age 18 and 11.1% of those age 65 or over.”

I doubt there is a single person in the city who would be subject to the federal estate tax. I doubt the letter writer even knows anyone who would be subject to it. And yet, it’s a “major issue.”

I find the politics of the estate tax odd. It’s interesting how the rich segment of the Republicans have convinced the poor segment of the Republicans that the “death tax” is something that they should be concerned about, as much as they should about the economy, and jobs, and social services, and national security.

If you’re interested in reading more about this political battle, I recommend you read Death by A Thousand Cuts: The Fight over Taxing Inherited Wealth, by Michael Graetz.


About the Author

David ShulmanDavid is a Fort Lauderdale attorney with a law practice focused on estate planning, probate and trust administration, asset protection, guardianships, and tax. Among other things he is a Mac nerd, BBQ lover, and blogger. Follow him on Google or Twitter.View all posts by David Shulman →