Tim­ing of death could save Stein­bren­ner’s heirs nearly half of his siz­able for­tune

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTSBRIEFING -

Born on the Fourth of July, Ge­orge Stein­bren­ner left the world stage with a great sense of tim­ing, too.

By dy­ing in 2010, the New York Yan­kees owner’s wealth avoids the fed­eral es­tate tax, likely sav­ing his heirs enough money to field an en­tire team of Alex Ro­driguezes. Stein­bren­ner’s death Tues­day came dur­ing a year-long gap in the es­tate tax, the first since it was en­acted in 1916. Po­lit­i­cal wran­gling has stale­mated ef­forts in Congress to re­place the tax that ex­pired in 2009.

That de­prives the govern­ment of bil­lions of dol­lars in an­nual rev­enue but rep­re­sents an un­ex­pected bo­nanza for those who in­herit wealth. “If you’re su­per-wealthy, it’s a good year to die,” said Jack Nuck­olls, an at­tor­ney and es­tate plan­ner with the ac­count­ing firm BDO Sei­d­man.

The death of Stein­bren­ner high­lights a quirky tax sit­u­a­tion that has drawn much scru­tiny among the moneyed but lit­tle on Main Street. Only those with es­tates val­ued at more than $3.5 mil­lion had to pay un­der the old law. Forbes mag­a­zine has es­ti­mated Stein­bren­ner’s es­tate at $1.1 bil­lion.

The fed­eral es­tate tax in 2009 was 45 per­cent, with the $3.5 mil­lion per-per­son ex­emp­tion. If he had died last year, his es­tate could thus have faced fed­eral taxes of al­most $500 mil­lion.

Kathy Wil­lens as­so­ci­ated press

Base­ball Hall of Famer Reg­gie Jack­son, left, sits with Ge­orge Stein­bren­ner dur­ing a spring train­ing game on March 6.

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