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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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