Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tax incentives for Zombies

In light of the alleged LSD overdose/Hannibal Lecter/Miami Zombie attack, it is time to talk seriously about the undead.

As any good boy scout will tell you, the motto is "Be Prepared." After I read McCarthy's "The Road," I started thinking a little harder about the "what ifs."  While some people take this to a whole new level, millions are being spent on the fascination with the apocalypse, zombies, killing zombies, societal breakdowns, and just about any other scenario where you are going to need to run and hide and fight for your life.  

New to the subject? Here is a decent primer video on the basics of the zombie fascination.

If you haven't seen zombieland, do. It is well written, funny, and has Woody Harrelson at his finest. I also love the Resident Evil movies, but they are not necessarily for the casual fan.  I digress.

 Zombies have become the most sensationalized of scenarios for when society breaks down, lawlessness ensues, and it will be every-person-for-themselves in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. A dose of the supernatural never hurts, either.

This is not, however, a zombie blog, it is a legal and tax blog.

Enter Adam Chodorow , faculty at Arizona State University, and his recent article DEATH AND TAXES…AND ZOMBIES. If you have the time, read it. It is well written, thoughtful, and entertaining scholarship. He blends everything from The Walking Dead to the estate tax to Harry Potter, with a dose of Weekend at Bernies. The Bible and The Princess Bride even makes an appearance in the footnotes. The article discusses topics such as the definition of death, what qualifies, and how various taxes apply to, well, zombies and their variants. This is what all law review articles should strive to be.

One of my favorite passages:

"For instance, if someone who becomes a zombie is considered not dead (as opposed to undead) for estate and income tax purposes, neither the estate tax nor the basis reset would
be triggered. We would be in a situation similar to the one Congress negotiated as part of the Bush tax cuts, which relaxed the basis reset rules in conjunction with eliminating the estate tax.
Alternately, both the estate tax and basis reset could kick in only when a person’s zombie was dispatched. Were this the rule, people might have incentives to become zombies to delay the application of the estate tax."

Pure gold.

Kidding aside, my take away is that with ever changing definitions of life, death, function, and capacity, planning for the unexpected cannot be taken lightly. If you have a will that said "I leave everything to my family," that you wrote in 1984, does "family" mean the same thing to you now? Definitions change. Make sure you change with the times.

Just like planning for the apocalypse, every detail counts. If you have not made a plan, do it. If you have a plan, review it, and make sure it is up to date.

Remember rule #31, always check the back seat. Be careful out there.

Update: Zombies attacked colonial Williamsburg over the weekend. This is getting silly.


  1. If zombies are undead, then could they be used to defeat the rule against perpetuities?

  2. This was a point addressed in the article. Zombies would be a great asset to use in making a "dynasty trust" or the like. However, with several states abolishing the rule against perpetuities, (and more one the way) it is likely not necessary. Can you imagine dealing with a zombie trustee? What would count as a necessary distribution for health, education, support or maintenance of a zombie? Got me.