Wrongful Death Recovery Can Not Include Compensation for Lost Estate Taxes in NJ

The New Jersey Supreme Court just ruled in Beim v. Hulfish (N.J. Jan. 28, 2014) that the family of a man killed in an accident cannot recover against the defendants for estate taxes lost as a result of his death.

John Kellogg was ninety-seven when he was killed in a car accident allegedly caused by the negligence of the two defendants in the case. This was in 2008, and on the eve of changes in the federal estate tax laws. Mr. Kellogg’s daughters, the plaintiffs in the case, alleged that had their father survived until 2009 or later, his estate would have paid substantially less in estate taxes than it did in 2008. That is because the federal estate tax exemption in 2008 was $2 million. In 2009, it was raised to $3.5 million. In 2010, there was no federal estate tax. His daughters sought recovery for the additional money their father’s estate had to pay in federal estate taxes as a result of his passing in 2008.

The New Jersey Supreme Court held that Mr. Kellogg’s daughters could not recover the additional estate taxes from the defendants.

This is an interesting result. The court allowed the family to collect for economic loss as a result of the financial contributions he may have made during the remaining years of his life but would not allow them to collect for actual money lost to estate taxes as a result of his passing.

While this was a New Jersey case and is not legally binding here in Minnesota, it would be interesting to see how a Minnesota Court would handle a similar case. To learn how you can minimize estate taxes, check out our estate tax planning videos here.

Chuck Roulet
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Nationally Recognized Estate Planning Attorney, Author, and Speaker
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