The New York Times today examines the strange case of Dan Duncan, the low-key but fabulously rich Houstonian who died earlier this year.
Because of politics and a resulting quirk in the law, it's possible his heirs will get his estate and pay absolutely no tax on it. No U.S. billionaire has ever been able to do that.
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Had his life ended three months earlier, Mr. Duncan's riches -- Forbes magazine estimated his worth at $9 billion, ranking him as the 74th wealthiest in the world -- would have been subject to a federal tax of at least 45 percent. If he had lived past Jan. 1, 2011, the rate would be even higher -- 55 percent.
Instead, because Congress allowed the tax to lapse for one year and gave all estates a free pass in 2010, Mr. Duncan's four children and four grandchildren stand to collect billions that in any other year would have gone to the Treasury.
The one-year lapse was signed into law by George W. Bush; Democrats pledged to rescind it but their effort got bogged down in the usual wrangling.
And so Duncan's heirs, already pretty damn lucky people, hit the lottery bigtime.