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Estate taxes - Oh, the insanity!

This is my first venture into the blogosphere. Why am I doing this? Well, it is part therapy for me and education and/or entertainment for you. In starting this post, I'm reminded of the monologue in the 1976 movie "Network" in which newscaster Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, went on an on-air rant, ending his tirade by saying: "I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!" That was, of course, followed by scenes of people throughout the city doing just that. The scene sparked quite a cult following that resulted in billboards, bumper stickers, coffee mugs and other merchandise being sold with the mantra, "I'm as mad a hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

I've decided that blogging is the 21st century's more gentile version of Beale's solution to the frustration at what our government is doing and has been doing to us. Although Finch won an Oscar for his portrayal of Howard Beale (actually, Finch was the first person to ever receive the award posthumously) and the movie is considered a classic, blogging is probably a better way to get the word out, rather than opening the window, sticking your head out and yelling, "I DON'T WANT TO PAY AN ESTATE TAX!"

It is an insane system! All our lives we pay income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, capital gain taxes, excise taxes, and several other categories of taxes. These taxes allegedly go to provide government services at all levels -- local, state and federal. However, as we are always told by our government, the amount collected is never enough. I'm reminded of a couple I represented years ago. The husband was a successful doctor. However, as a couple, they had little in savings. As someone explained it to me, it wasn't that she spent too much. Rather, it was that HE didn't EARN enough! Similarly, our governments fail to live within their means and expand ever larger at the speed of light. If you are successful enough to tread through life paying all of these taxes AND still have something left to distribute at your death, the federal government and many state governments then impose an estate or inheritance tax against what you owned at your death. As with most taxes, the marginal rate for this tax increases as your net worth increases. At one point in the 1970s and early 80s, the maximum federal estate tax rate was 70%! However, that maximum rate has come down and, as a result of the 2010 tax act, the maximum rate is now only 35%. Did you read that? ONLY 35%! That means that the federal government can ONLY take 35% of the value of what you accumulated over the years through your own blood, sweat and tears. Should we be happy about that? I, for one, do not think so!

This blog will explore the history of estate taxes as they existed over time. It will delve into the philosophic reasons given for and against the estate tax and analyze proposed legislation that affect estates, gifts, and the transfer of wealth.

Let me end this first post with a caveat: I never take myself very seriously. As I stand on this virtual "soap box" and pontificate, I also realize that I can only do so much. I do not expect the markets to turn on my very word, I do not expect the tides to cease or the planets to align in perfect harmony just because I make a literary "pronouncement" here. Although the subjects may be dire (e.g., death, taxes, government intervention, etc.), I prefer to address them with humor and levity. Let me disclose that one of my favorite authors is Miami Herald syndicated columnist Dave Barry. Dave, to my knowledge, is not a lawyer. However, he is hilariously funny to read! In his current blog, there is even an entry entitled, "Why sex with creatures from the future is a bad idea." I haven't read the post and really don't even have to read it to know that I will laugh after doing so. Having read so much Dave Barry, my style of writing has gravitated to his rather insane, dry, and warped attempts to make a parody of pretty much everything for, as the saying goes, "If we can't laugh at ourselves, who can we laugh at?"

I will assure you I will not always be humorous. Not everything I will write will be meant to evoke a laugh from you. However, if it does, go with it! If it upsets or irritates you, blame it on Dave Barry, or the government, or even creatures from the future. We'll have some fun with this topic and, hopefully, you will gain an understanding for why I believe an estate tax is an insane idea that must be put to rest. (Yeah, that was sort of a pun. Estate tax (sometimes called a "death tax").... put to rest....Get it?)

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