How Aging Billionaires Are Making Sure Their Money Doesn’t Go To Uncle Sam

America’s Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), along with surviving members of older generations, are about to fuel the greatest wealth transfer of all time. In the U.S. today, according to the Federal Reserve, Boomers control a stunning $75 trillion and their elders another $18 trillion of the nation’s $141 trillion in total household wealth. Yes, some middle-class retirees will spend their savings and die broke. But wealth in the U.S. has become increasingly concentrated, with the richest 1% holding 31% of net assets—meaning most one-percenters (minimum net worth $10 million) will leave plenty to their children, grandchildren and favorite causes.

That’s particularly true for the very richest. Out of 88 million living Americans born before 1965, Forbes has identified 572 U.S. billionaires—the 0.000007%. We estimate they have a collective net worth of $3.9 trillion to pass on. The death tax? “Only morons pay the estate tax,” former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn famously quipped while serving as President Donald Trump’s chief economic advisor.

For billionaires and centimillionaires, even more relief comes from an alphabet soup of wealth transfer techniques, used in ever more creative and aggressive combinations: GRATs, FLPs, IDGTs, GSTs, CLTs, ILITs, IDFs. Some plans get extra juice from intrafamily loans. Others deeply discount the value of transferred assets based on theories of why lack of marketability or control makes them worth less. In their annual menus of tax-the-rich ideas, Presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden have proposed clamping down on some of these ploys. But that didn’t happen while Democrats held both houses of Congress. It’s a nonstarter now.

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