It’s not so much what he did but what Congress didn’t do. The estate tax went away in 2010, even though Congress brought it back to life in 2011 and never meant for it to lapse in the first place. I know that estate taxes are a hot button issue, but politics aside, there is something to be said for consistency because it’s hard to make rational decisions when the rules to the game keep changing.
But sometimes those changes end up working out in your favor—such is the case with George Steinbrenner, who was the owner of the New York Yankees and worth an estimated $1.1 billion when he died July 13, 2010. So based on estate tax rates that took effect January 1, 2011, his family saved around $600 million in taxes. In other words, he picked a good year to die.