Estate planning is a simple concept. For those whose families aren’t wealthy enough to incur any estate taxes at the time of their death (this is the case for almost all of us), you might only require an estate planning or probate lawyer in order to set up a legal will and last testament or determine power of attorney in cases during which you’re incapacitated and need someone who you trust to make the important decisions for you.
For others, estate planning is a way to conserve assets. The process is complicated and convoluted, but it helps save families a lot of money by avoiding taxes they might otherwise have to pay. Sometimes it helps keep businesses alive. With the right estate planning lawyer, the probate courts can be avoided down the road. More importantly, it’s a legal path.
Donald Trump and his family decided to go another way. Instead of using estate planning lawyers to their advantage, he and his father set up a sham company in order to hide money and dodge taxes throughout the 1990s. This, after claiming that his fortune was “self-made” and that he had no help from his father, from whom he inherited about $413 million worth of real estate.
Trump was allegedly in part responsible for the devisement of a plan to undervalue those real estate holdings. Subsequently, the taxes were reduced substantially when the estate passed to him and his other siblings. All the children together received over $1 billion in assets, but paid only $52.2 million in taxes even though the typical tax rate of 55 percent would have resulted in a $550 million bill. Not surprisingly, Trump doesn’t have much to say about these accusations, save to say that no one cares about his tax returns.
One of Trump’s lawyers was quick to contend how these allegations are false, and borderline defamatory. He made this claim by arguing that Trump had delegated the tasks to others, and that it was really those individuals and possibly the other members of his family who had potentially broken the law. Sure thing, that’s a likely story.
Experts take note that Trump will likely never be prosecuted under criminal law because the statute of limitations has elapsed. Although this will likely also reduce the chances of an investigation, if one were to take place then he might be liable for civil fines that stem from tax fraud or tax evasion.