Rex: Death and taxes

Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 11:45pm
Wilder-vert.jpg
John Wilder

Just 10 minutes after midnight on New Year’s Day, as we were all kissing our significant others and raising the bubbly, former Lt. Gov. John Shelton Wilder passed away in Memphis. He had suffered a stroke at home earlier in the week.

While bipartisan tributes rolled in for the former legislative leader, more cynical comments about the timing of Wilder’s passing found their way online.

Some people pointed out that at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, the federal inheritance tax — more often derided as the “death tax” — expired, meaning Wilder’s heirs wouldn’t be subject to paying a significant portion of his estate to the government. These commenters wondered whether the family had kept Wilder alive to exploit this tax law loophole created when Congress failed to act last year.

To lay this insensitive conspiracy theory to rest, here are the facts: Wilder was brain dead and taken off of life support almost two days before he succumbed. At that point, the family was told that the beloved Tennessee figure could hang on anywhere from two to 48 hours.

As had been his lifelong habit in matters both personal and political, Wilder lasted longer than anyone expected.

CSI: Belle Meade

Rex has learned that some punk has launched a war on Nashville’s best-known bastion of privilege.

Patrons at the Belle Meade Country Club discovered — fortunately not the hard way — that someone tied high-strength fishing line between two trees and across a golf cart path. The fishing line was about chest (or neck) high and about four strands strong.

Rex’s well-bred sources say the BMCC has requested that the Belle Meade Police increase their patrols around the golf course, particularly in the evening and early morning hours, to attempt to identify any malicious activities.

While they’re at it, maybe the long arm of the law there can also get to the bottom of another case Rex discovered a while back. Readers might remember that a dark brown, ankle-length Gus Mayer fur coat was taken “accidently” from the BMCC cloakroom a year ago and still hasn’t been returned.

It’s freaking cold, people, so whoever took it needs to return it. Somewhere in the Belle Meade Kroger right about now, there’s an unhappy woman whose ankles are turning blue.

Holiday stars

As regular Rex readers know, he was on break over the Christmas/New Year’s holidays. All that really means is he spent less time doing what his editors told him to do and more time doing what his wife said.

He did get out a bit, though, and saw a couple of celebrities on the town being average Joes.

The first was at a bar where Rex went to watch a little bowl game action. It was a bit disconcerting when Rex’s buddy said, “Hey, look who just walked in. It’s James Denton from Desperate Housewives!”

This is not the type of exclamation particularly welcome from a guy at a sports bar. It’s cool that James Denton, a Nashville native, can go out and have a beer without being bothered. What’s uncool is instantly recognizing a dude from a nighttime soap geared to women and interrupting a football game to talk about it.

Rex and the rest of his friends are thinking of leaving that buddy at home come March Madness.

The other star sighting was at a local Publix. Rex was walking in when he noticed a luxury car with a vanity plate that read, “NOSHOW4.” That could only mean one thing — that old possum George Jones was around.

Rex was worried initially that Jones had fallen off the wagon because there’s a liquor store right next door. But imagine his relief 20 minutes later when he ended up right behind “No Show” at the checkout counter.

Rex had to look. Jones bought two pies and four canned hams. No possum.

5 Comments on this post:

By: frank brown on 1/11/10 at 8:55

REX........You should have heard all of the talk in the mens grill about how dangerous that little trick was. You would have thought that Obama had bought a house in 37205.

By: Anna3 on 1/11/10 at 10:09

If Obama bought a House in 37205...I might be forced to move to Bellevue.

By: pswindle on 1/11/10 at 12:01

You can thank Bush and the GOP Congress for the law that just expired. He wanted to save his family's millions. This is one reason that the country is in such a bad shape, Bush cut off taxes that the country needed to survive. He cut taxes on the rich, and raised some new taxes on everyone else. I paid more taxes under Bush than I had have ever paid.

By: Magnum on 1/11/10 at 1:19

Not that I have to worry about the "death tax", but even so, I've never liked it. In my opinion the threshold was way too low resulting in the destruction of generational wealth in marginally wealthy families. For instance, land owners with few liquid assets, small business owners, or families that barely crossed the threshold yet had several children. These families carried a much higher burden because the "death tax" wasn't tiered. You either qualified and they took roughly half your assets or you didn't and they left you alone. At the end of the day, I'm sure there were many families that got hit with the death tax and ended up with fewer assets than similar families that just missed having to pay the death tax. I just can't agree with that type of backward thinking. If they wanted to pass a logical inheritance tax law, they would tier the thresholds and tax rates. For instance, a $3M inheritance might qualify for taxation, but it wouldn't be at 40+% like a $50M inheritance. Furthermore, I would exclude property from the calculation up to a certain point. At lower levels there is risk that property that has been passed down generation to generation could have to be sold to pay the tax. Again, this is backward thinking to me. Its as if they are trying to destroy wealth.

By: frank brown on 1/11/10 at 3:04

PSWINDLE..........If you paid more taxes under Bush it is probably and almost certain that you made more money under Bush.