It appears that George Steinbrenner has outsmarted everyone again. While many people thought his fleecing of CBS in 1973 when he purchased the Yankees for the paltry sum of $10,000,000 could not be topped, his sudden death yesterday may save his estate from paying millions of dollars in federal estate taxes. As is widely known, the federal estate tax has been repealed in 2010 only; had Steinbrenner died in January (absent the enactment of new legislation), then his estate, which is estimated to exceed $1 billion, would have been subject to a federal estate tax of 55% for all assets in excess of $1 million.
Estate planning experts quoted here speculate that Steinbrenner likely had engaged in various estate planning techniques that would have minimized the estate tax hit had he died in a year when the federal estate tax was in force. I too would be surprised if Steinbrenner hadn't put in place GRATs, sales to Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts, Charitable Trusts and other planning tools to lessen the estate tax hit. But unless Congress retroactively reinstates an estate tax for 2010 (which appears less likely the further into 2010 we get), then any such advanced planning may prove to have been unnecessary in this instance.