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Monday, February 1, 2010

Potential Estate Tax Implications Of J.D. Salinger's Death

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."

"Catcher In The Rye" by J.D. Salinger (who passed away on January 28, 2010 at age 91 when there is no federal estate tax under current law)

Famously reclusive, Salinger withdrew from public life, refusing interviews for many decades. Although he was understood to have continued to write in his isolation, those manuscripts have remained private. From a federal estate tax perspective, what are those manuscripts worth?

I have written previously about the potential estate tax implications of someone's death during this time period when there's no current federal estate tax. Let me use Salinger as an example.

What happens if Congress reinstates the federal estate tax later this year and makes it retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010? Some estate tax attorneys have predicted that the representatives of the estate of someone who dies during this window of time (such as Salinger) would mount a constitutional challenge to the retroactivity of the law that would go all the way to the Supreme Court.

I am not saying it would be Salinger but it would be quite ironic if the estate of the notoriously private Salinger filed a public lawsuit challenging this law. I suspect that Salinger's estate representative and attorneys -- like the rest of us -- are waiting for what Congress is going to do.

Posted by Henry J. Moravec, III. Henry (Hank) Moravec is a partner at Moravecs, A Professional Law Corporation in San Marino, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. He focuses his practice on Estate Planning, Probate Litigation, Trust Administration, Beneficiary Representation, Trustee Representation, Tax Law, and Nonprofit Law.

Should you have any questions regarding your own situation, you can e-mail Hank Moravec at hm@moravecslaw.com or call him at (626) 793-3210. The firm website is http://www.moravecslaw.com/