The 2010 law setting the estate tax at 35% for estates under $5 million dollars is set to expire in January 2013. In five days, the exemption plummets to $1 million dollars. It’s going to cost your family more money if you are hanging on to life to ring in the new year.
According to CNBC, “If the life of an elderly wealthy family member extends into 2013, the tax bills will be substantially higher. An estate that could bequest $3 million this year will leave just $1.9 million after taxes next year. Shifting a death from January to December could produce $1.1 million in tax savings.”
Although morbid to contemplate, people do adjust their behavior to avoid increased tax liabilities; they sell stocks to avoid capital gains taxes. While the issue of hastening one’s death is less popular, the issue of delaying death is not a new one. The New York Times reported an increased death rate during the first week of 2000, compared to the last week of 1999, possibly from an interest to live to see the new millennium. There’s no telling how behavior might be affected by the desire to leave one’s heirs more money.
The only thing that is certain is that you can’t avoid death and taxes, but you have five days left to avoid an increased tax liability.