Wealth distribution

By: Martin M. Shenkman, CPA, MBA, JD

Many of the comments made about the estate tax, or the "death tax" as it is often referred to, seem to ignore the realities of wealth distribution. When considering even the $1 million estate tax exemption that use to exist consider the following. The richest 1% of U.S. households had a net worth 225 times greater than that of the average American household in 2009, according to analysis conducted by the Economic Policy Institute. That is a substantial increase from the previous record of 190 times greater, established in 2004. The widening gap came even as wealthy households’' average net worth tumbled 27% -- to about $14 million -- between 2007 to 2009. Meanwhile, the average family’'s net worth plunged 41% -- to just $62,200 -- from 2007 to 2009, according to EPI’'s calculations. Approximately 36,300 Americans in 2009 were classified as ultra high net worth, with estates of $30 million and over (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millionaire). Those folks will remain subject to the federal estate tax and will need to continue to plan aggressively. Based on the 2001 figures, American families with a net worth of more than $10 million numbered 338,400 (Johnston, D. ,June 5, 2005, “Richest Are Leaving Even the Richest Far Behind,” New York Times. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0605-01.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-20).

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