Tax Consequences of a Zombie Apocalypse
In a zombie apocalypse the two certainties in life, death and taxes, may not be so certain. Fortunately, College of Law professor Adam Chodorow has recognized that the current estate and income tax laws do not adequately address the tax implications of being undead and has tackled the topic of estate planning for the living dead in his article Death and Taxes and Zombies, to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Iowa Law Review.
The article’s abstract details the subject matter: “This article fills a glaring gap in the academic literature by examining how the estate and income tax laws apply to the undead. Beginning with the critical question of whether the undead should be considered dead for estate tax purposes, the article continues on to address income tax issues the undead are likely to face. In addition to zombies, the article also considers how estate and income tax laws should apply to vampires and ghosts. Given the difficulties identified herein of applying existing tax law to the undead, new legislation may be warranted. However, any new legislation is certain to raise its own set of problems. The point here is not to identify the appropriate approach. Rather, it is to goad Congress and the IRS into action before it is too late.”
Chodorow’s article brings up issues that may actually have to be addressed if technology designed to bring back individuals from death is ever developed. In the mean time, however, it’s a really fun read, as exemplified by footnote 91 below:
91 Given their longevity, vampires would also have significant advantages with compounding interest and the tax deferral provided by IRAs and other tax advantaged savings plans, such as whole life insurance. Vampires would presumably be subject to mandatory withdrawals at age 70 and 1/2, see I.R.C. §§ 408(b)(3), §401(a)(9), but it is not clear how the amount of withdrawals would be calculated because the traditional actuarial mortality charts would not apply.
Another interesting question would be whether a vampire qualifies as a “life in being” for purposes of the rule against perpetuities. If so the rule would functionally cease to operate in those states that have not already abandoned the rule. While vampires would not need to create trusts to exercise the undead hand, they might want to create self-settled asset protection trusts or trusts to provide for underage or spendthrift offspring in the event they are exposed to sunlight or a well placed wooden stake. If they could find a jurisdiction that does not tax trust income, such as Alaska, all the better. This may explain why the vampires who threatened Bella in the first Twilight book spent time in Alaska.