Attorney-at-Law

UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE DECADE

In Uncategorized on 04/07/2020 at 17:54

He may be quirky, but when it comes to “such rarefied heights of pure mathematics that it is said that there was no man in the scientific press capable of criticizing it,” Judge Mark V. Holmes is in his element.

And he combines his mathematics with a tale worthy of John Steinbeck in Howard V. Moore, Donor, a.k.a. Estate of Howard V. Moore, Deceased, Virgil L. Moore, Executor and Trustee, 2020 T. C. Memo. 40, filed 4/7/20.

The late Howard started in an AZ hardscrbble “…home thatched out of arrowweed, not that different from the precolonial homes of the local Native Americans.” 2020 T.C. Memo. 40, at p. 3. But he made his career as a leveler, one who made every valley exalted and the rough places plain, so the AZ farmers could irrigate, and got paid in land because cash money was nonexistent. By the time Howard met The Great Leveler, his net worth was in the millions, and his trusty attorney had put together five (count ‘em, five) trusts and a FLP, with loans and paperwork to hold together his dysfunctional family. Read Judge Holmes’ prose, and imagine what Steinbeck or O’Neill could do with this.

Howbeit, Howard’s whole aim was to save taxes, which torpedoes the whole shebang. No business purpose, no assets to preserve and manage, no creditors to swoop down and plunder, charitable contributions to be computed only after IRS audits the estate, and Howard sold the farm for $16 million at arms’-length, but lived there and kept managing until he died, about a year after all this estate planning stuff (which he did while in a hospice, and checked himself out to go home).

Judge Holmes’ aim seems to be to mix-and-match Sections 2033, 2035, 2036, 2043, and 2051, until he reduces all the gyrations to an equation. “The final equation: ((Either $5.3 million or $8.5 million + (.2 * value of farm at date of death)) – (money that left the estate between the time of the sale and Moore’s death)) + ((value of farm at date of death) – ((either $5.3 million or $8.5 million) + (.2 * value of farm at date of death))). We can then simplify the equation to: (The value of the farm at date of death) – (money that left the estate between the time of the sale and date of death).” 2020 T. C. Memo. 40, at p. 55.

For you who are mathematicians, or old enough to remember the Greyhound Bus slogan (“getting there is half the fun”), start at p. 42 and read on. As for me, “(W)hen the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me, When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure…how soon unaccountable I became tired,” as a much finer writer than I put it.

And, as the headline of this blogpost says, Judge Holmes sends the parties off to the Rule 155 beancount with the understatement of the decade. “We have no doubt that computations will be difficult.” 2020 T. C. Memo. 40, at p. 63.

 

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