On December 30, 2009, the Wall Street Journal published Rich Cling to Life to Beat Tax Man, by Laura Saunders. Saunders has done an excellent job interviewing practitioners and experts. Below, I provide my favorite quotes from the article.
One interesting quote from Joshua Rubenstein shows the difficult decisions some families are now facing:
"I have two clients on life support, and the families are struggling with whether to continue heroic measures for a few more days," says Joshua Rubenstein, a lawyer with Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP in New York. "Do they want to live for the rest of their lives having made serious medical decisions based on estate-tax law?"
A quote from Andrew Katzenstein provides a practice tip with regards to drafting health-care proxies:
To make it easier on their heirs, some clients are putting provisions into their health-care proxies allowing whoever makes end-of-life medical decisions to consider changes in estate-tax law. "We have done this at least a dozen times, and have gotten more calls recently," says Andrew Katzenstein, a lawyer with Proskauer Rose LLP in Los Angeles.
Katzenstein shares with Saunders that one infirm client is even considering euthanasia as an estate planning technique:
The situation is causing at least one person to add the prospect of euthanasia to his estate-planning mix, according to Mr. Katzenstein of Proskauer Rose. An elderly, infirm client of his recently asked whether undergoing euthanasia next year in Holland, where it's legal, might allow his estate to dodge the tax.
His answer: Yes.
In another interesting quote, Professor Michael Graetz calls the lapse in the federal estate tax "congressional malpractice":
Now, all bets are off. "If Congress couldn't do it this year, why will they be able to do it next year?" says Prof. Michael Graetz of Columbia University, who worked both at Treasury and for Congress. He calls the lapse "congressional malpractice."
Saunders also discusses the uncertainty that remains in whether Congress will apply an estate tax retroactive to January 1st, and the possibility of a challenge to such a retroactive tax.