Reuters columnist Amy Feldman of Reuters analyzes:
Estate taxes affect very few people [in the US], but for those with seven- or eight-figure estates that are impacted, the end of this [particular and very peculiar] year is a crazy, crazy time…
“Whether somebody dies December 31st or January 1st makes a huge difference because the rules changed so quickly,” [tax attorney Cheryl] Hader says. “In some situations it pays to live, and in some situations it pays not to. Its such a bizarre topic that you’re never going to see it come up again.”
In fact, all morbid jokes aside, academics Joel Slemrod and Wojciech Kopczuk found that when the estate tax rules are known in advance to be changing (as they were last year and are again now), people do, in fact, time their deaths so as to save their heirs money. Their paper won them the Ig Nobel Prize (for academic research designed to make people laugh as well as to think) back in 2001. But perhaps there aren’t so many people laughing now.