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Judge reverses probate court in first opinion

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Judge Martha Wentworth has handed down her first opinion as Indiana’s Tax Court judge. In her decision, she reversed the probate court’s finding that an estate didn’t have to file an inheritance tax return on checks issued to a deceased woman’s brother on an annuity contract.

In Indiana Dept. of State Revenue, Inheritance Tax Division v. In the Matter of the Estate of Deloras J. Biddle, No. 49T10-1007-TA-35, the Department of State Revenue appealed the probate court’s ruling that the estate of Deloras Biddle didn’t have to file an inheritance tax return and pay the appropriate amount of tax due on two checks issued to her brother by Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. The checks, which totaled more than $26,000, indicated they represented the amount of death claim proceeds from an annuity contract held by Biddle.

When she died intestate, Biddle’s son was appointed personal representative of her estate. As sole heir, he received a distribution that was less than the exemption to which he was entitled, so no inheritance tax return was filed. The Department of State Revenue learned of the checks two years after the probate court approved the closing statement and released her son from his duties as personal representative.

The probate court denied the department’s motion to correct error.

Proceeds from life insurance on the life of a decedent are exempt from inheritance tax. So are annuity payments, but only “to the same extent that the annuity … is excluded from the decedent’s federal gross estate under Section 2039 of the Internal Revenue Code,” wrote Judge Wentworth. An annuity payment received by a beneficiary is subject to the inheritance tax if the annuity contract was entered after March 3, 1931; and it was payable to the decedent, or the decedent possessed the right to receive the payment either for his life, for any period not ascertainable without reference to his death, or for any period which doesn’t in fact end before his death, she wrote.

The probate court erred when it determined the checks issued by MetLife were life insurance proceeds and not annuity contract payments. The evidence in this case on its face doesn’t support the lower court’s findings. The checks even clearly say they were from proceeds from an annuity contract.

She remanded with instructions to order the estate to provide a copy of the MetLife contracts so that the probate court may determine whether the estate was required to file an Indiana inheritance tax return and pay inheritance tax on the transfers to Biddle’s brother.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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