What if Santa and Mrs. Claus decided to do an estate plan? Although they would doubtless be great clients, the actual estate plan could be challenging.
Estate Tax Concerns. In 2015 the federal estate tax exemption will increase to $5,430,000 for a single person and with estate planning a married couple should be able to exempt $10,860,000. However, Santa and his wife likely have a taxable estate. It is extremely hard to calculate the size of their gross estate but Santa’s toy making business is prospering. He has enough inventory to supply every child on earth with at least one toy each year. There are now over 7 billion people on earth, and if just half of those are children and Santa spends just $20 on each child, he is spending 70 billion dollars per year on Christmas gifts alone. Apparently this formal gifting program is not reducing the size of his estate because he’s continued to do this since the 4th century. Of course, even if federal estate taxes are repealed, reducing estate taxes is not Santa’s only estate planning goal.
Caring for Dependents. Another consideration for Santa’s estate plan will be caring for the hundreds of elves that work in his shops and are apparently totally dependent on him for survival. There are no known relatives to serve as guardians in the event Santa and Mrs. Claus both pass away. And even if relatives can be tracked down, it is doubtful that they will have the wherewithal to care for so many dependents. We might want to consider starting a charitable organization that establishes homes, jobs, and caretakers for these magical little people.
Creating a Pet Trust. Santa has also invested a lot of time, money, and love in his wild animal preserve. Besides the normal elk, caribou, and polar bears, Santa has successfully bred a unique species of flying reindeer and at least one with a light-emitting nose. Santa and Mrs. Claus could set up a pet trust as part of their estate plan to continue to care for these animals.
Business Succession Planning. Death isn’t the only concern for the Clauses. If Santa were to be disabled by a collision with an aircraft, a fall from his sleigh on a fast take-off, or a gunshot wound from someone who mistakes him as a burglar, his business could be in trouble. Mrs. Claus hasn’t had a lot of direct involvement with the business. It might be wise to pick some key elf employees from executive management who can be trained to take over. An experienced business law attorney could help Santa negotiate a buy-sell agreement with the elves. Due to his advanced age (approximately 1600), and the fact that he is overweight and smokes, he may have difficulty qualifying for key man life insurance but it should not be ruled out because of his overall good health and vitality.
Obviously, creating an estate plan for Santa will be a daunting task but if you see him sometime soon, please let him know that our estate planning attorneys would be happy to help him out.
Like Santa, our firm wishes you Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a prosperous New Year.