Should Zombies Pay Estate Taxes?

How dead do you have to be before the government can tap your estate for estate taxes? Do you have to be only kind of dead, or do you have to be fully dead-dead? This is the subject of a new law review article by Adam Chodorow of the Arizona State University law school, as well as the topic under discussion in this tongue-in-cheek article in the New York Times.

When it comes to the legal rights of the undead Chodorow believes that “The important question is determining whether zombies should be considered truly deceased or partly alive. That distinction is crucial financially.” The article continues searching for answers to this and other particularly unusual questions in a hilarious but educational vein. Never has estate planning been so interesting—or trendy!—and yet readers will find themselves learning a little bit about the law in spite of themselves. Consider the following:

“But there are some tax downsides to zombiedom. When you actually die — for clarity, let’s call this ‘die-die’ — the appreciation in the value of your assets is wiped out for tax purposes. Say a vintage car you bought for $50,000 is worth $100,000 when you die-die. Under I.R.S. rules, this doesn’t cost your heirs taxes on the $50,000 gain when they sell it. Instead, the car is valued at $100,000.”

It’s the Stepped-up basis rule applied to the undead.

The article is obviously written in fun, but it brings up some legal issues that even the living would do well to think about. There have been a lot of changes to gift tax and estate tax law in the past few years, and if you haven’t created your estate plan, or if you have an estate plan but haven’t reviewed or updated it recently, you may have worse things to worry about than a zombie apocalypse. Call our office and make sure your assets and your family are protected from every kind of disaster.

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