This week in February, 2013, the legendary Jerry Buss lost his battle with cancer. Sports fans, like myself, view Dr. Buss’s accomplishments unmatched in the sports world. For the uniformed, Dr. Buss owned several sports franchises in Los Angeles, most notably the L.A. Lakers of the NBA. During his tenure, Dr. Buss maintained high profile superstars in Los Angeles such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant. Further, his prized Lakers won an unfathomable 10 NBA Championships since his purchase of the franchise in 1979 for a then-record $67.5 million.
As a sports fan and a Laker fan, Dr. Buss will be sorely missed. However, as an estate planning professional, Dr. Buss has continued to teach us lessons even from the grave.
By way of background for the uninformed, talks of the fiscal cliff and the expiration of the estate tax exemptions and estate tax rates dominated the tax community at the end of 2012. Many estate tax professionals anticipated the estate tax exemption to be reduced from $5 million down to $1 million or $3 million at the absolute max. In addition, many estate planners believed the estate tax rate would increase from 35% back to the high 55% tax rates. In preparation for this dramatic change, many Americans worth more than $1 million frantically acted to take advantage of the gift tax to get their estates below the believed $1 million or $3 million threshold.