Timing of death could save Steinbrenner’s heirs nearly half of his sizable fortune
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.
Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, left, sits with George Steinbrenner during a spring training game on March 6.