Crowding Out: Estate Tax Reform and the Elder Law Policy Agenda
33 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2002
Date Written: October 2002
This article examines the estate tax reform provisions of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 in the context of important issues affecting older Americans. Contrary to policymakers' claims that the estate tax is a major concern for elders, this article shows that only a tiny minority of decedents have any estate tax exposure, and that the recently increased exemption will reduce this group even further. In any case, the estate tax is an issue for nonspouse survivors of an elderly decedent, rather than the elders themselves. Even more significantly, by focusing on estate tax reform, policymakers have ignored numerous issues that are truly more important to older Americans, including prescription drugs, long-term care financing, advance health-care directives, Social Security's earnings test, and undiversified pension plans. After examining each of these issues, the article concludes by suggesting that more attention be paid to issues that affect the medical and financial quality of most elders' lives, rather than the pecuniary interests of a few elders' nonspousal survivors.
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