Tuesday, July 27, 2010

drop me a note if this scares you pants off

"So far you have survived the worst crisis in financial markets since the Great Depression. You have held onto your sizable wealth, which presents us with a tax-planning scenario that only Agatha Christie could have dreamed up: There is a new and possibly significant risk to your continued survival that runs through the end of this year."

Oooh, tell me more...

"You no doubt heard about the death of New York Yankees boss George Steinbrenner last week, and you may know he died at an opportune time for his heirs. Your own children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews probably learned something that could put you in danger."

Okay, that's a great intro, one that has rendered my trousers a mere memory. Trouble is, it doesn't go anywhere. I've had this piece by Kevin Hassett warming my in-box for several days now, and I haven't been able to decide what to do with it. I have as much sympathy as the next guy for the travails of the ultra-rich (damn little), but still, this essay is like I had just written my funniest bit ever, and then had a joke surgeon come in to carefully excise all the punch lines. Perfect set-ups but mysteriously missing payoffs.

You've probably figured out where all this is heading - the estate tax is "coming back with a vengeance", and your loved ones now have a strong new self interest in ensuring your quick departure from this mortal coil. Kevin Hassett, economic advisor to George Bush, economic advisor to John McCain, author of the prophetic 'Dow 36,000', and, I assumed, budding humorist, at least until I noticed the conspicuous lack of intentionally funny parts herein. The impending doom is very real.

"If you wait to die until 2011, you’re likely to face a tax rate of about 50 percent. That means if your estate is $200 million, your heirs save about $100 million if you, let’s say, conveniently have an accident in the next five months. I see some of you shaking your heads. I know, this may sound far-fetched. But economic studies have shown that monetary incentives influence death rates. Plugs get unplugged, do-not- resuscitate orders are placed. Maybe worse."

Maybe worse. Your heirs could pluck out your liver right in front of you, washing it down with a nice Chianti, not even offering you a fucking glass. I don't know, it could happen. Hassett has done the research and it uncovers the startling fact that the wealthy have a 25% greater chance of dying when the estate tax goes up. But there is some hope.

"...it’s quite possible that people reach a certain date through the force of their own will to live. This suggests that your own determination to see 2011 might matter more than, say, the possibility that your grandchildren poison you."

Yes you can! Survive! But just in case, Hassett offers some practical advice for the fearful feeble. First of all, don't fear your spouse. They get everything anyway, so if they're your only heir, they've got no reason to seek your untimely demise. Unless, of course, they're just not into you and your miserable whining. Everyone else, however, highly suspect, so Kevin offers advice sure to thwart their murderous desires.

"Change your will so that if you drop dead this year, the first 50 percent goes to charity. Divide the rest among your heirs. On Jan. 1, have the will revert to its previous conditions. Announce this change to all your heirs, and the problem is solved. Once this change is made, the only entity with an incentive to see you die this year rather than next year is the charity, and it has no way of knowing what you’ve written in your will."

There is one group that I have less sympathy for than the troubled ultra-rich, and that would be the greedy heirs of the ultra-rich. So if I may amend Mister Hassett's brilliant treatise, I would suggest that if you are one of the troubled few to be plagued by this looming threat to your hard-earned $200,000,000, you might want to just go ahead and spend a bit of it to hire a hitman to take out those insatiable sonofabitches before they have a chance to draw their knives on you.

1 comment:

  1. Gets to be like that old Jack Benny joke, where the guy sticks a gun in his guy and says "Your money or your life!"

    Long,long pause....

    Jack Benny: "I'm thinking...."