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Yankee owner's estate the 3rd to pass tax-free in 2010

7-13-2010 With his passing on July 23, George Steinbrenner becomes the third American billionaire to die in the "year of no estate tax." That means the legendary Yankees owner's $1.15 billion estate will pass to his family, with not a cent to Uncle Sam in estate taxes.

However Steinbrenner and his family can't rest in peace quite yet: there is a possibility that Congress will impose an estate tax retroactively on estates of those dying in 2010. It is widely believed that if such a tax is imposed retroactively, it would be at 2009 levels, i.e., an exclusion of $3.5 million with a tax rate of 45%. But you never know. 

Something else we don't know: What the estate tax picture will be for 2011. If Congress fails to act, on Jan. 1, 2011 the estate tax will come roaring back at pre-2001 levels, i.e, exclusion of $1 million and a top tax rate of 55%. If this comes to pass, many individuals will need to take a look at their estate plan to determine if tax planning is needed.

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