Sorry if this is too frivolous. Just tell me nicely if it is. It is very hot, and my mind drifted -- as whose would not? -- to estate taxes.

As many of us know, in the US, any amount may be left to a spouse free of Federal estate tax, but assets of above 11.4 million left to any other person are subject to Federal estate tax.

In the interest of simplicity, ignore State estate taxes, children, and close relatives.

Assume: A (a woman) and B (a man) are a married couple with a hefty, but not ginormous, estate. A dies. B then marries a younger person A'. After some years, B dies and A' marries a younger man B'. And so on. If the ages of A' and B' and A" and B" (and so on) are chosen right, and there is no foul play or even suspected foul play, this could theoretically go on forever. Of course, the sequence would have many A's with younger spouses, but nothing that a visit or two per-older-A to a good cosmetic surgeon could not render almost unnoticeable.

Question: With current technology or technology in the pipeline, would the IRS notice this large estate passing though a long string of deaths free of estate tax, and if it did, would it care?

Disclaimer: The As and the Bs could, of course be a same-sex couple at some or many points, but I'm trying to keep this simple.

  • 1
    "It is very hot". Turn on the air conditioner. – RonJohn Aug 18 '19 at 21:35
  • @RonJohn Funny. Some of us get bored being inside. – ab2 Aug 18 '19 at 21:39
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    the sequence would have many A's with younger spouses, but nothing that a visit or two per-older-A to a good cosmetic surgeon So, what - only the older women need to be concerned about their looks, older men don't? How is this sexist viewpoint adding anything to your question? – dwizum Aug 19 '19 at 12:58
  • @dwizum Just reflecting what exists. Also, if, repeat if, there is something in the chain marriage (thanks for the term, Rupert) that the IRS would look at askance, the participants would want to fly under the radar of potential informants. Note that the question is: Would the IRS care? I don't know everything that the IRS cares about! – ab2 Aug 19 '19 at 13:22

The term for this is a Chain Marriage. Google results for examples are filled with hits for the phrase "ball and chain", but I did find one example that lasted 117 years.

As far as I know, these are not considered the same estate by the IRS, so there would be no presumption of fraud.

  • +1, proving that it is hard to imagine anything stranger than real life. – ab2 Aug 19 '19 at 2:10
  • @ab2: Why on Earth do you think this is strange? (And if you want to go off-Earth, read Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" :-)) – jamesqf Aug 19 '19 at 16:45
  • @jamesqf Tell me how many cases of over 100 year chain marriages are known to you from your reading. I imagined it; did you? – ab2 Aug 19 '19 at 17:05
  • @ab2: I know of none, but then it's not something I would think to notice. It would be about as "strange" as a long-time friend mentioning that she'd been married twice before her current husband - which actually happened to me a couple of months ago. (I knew about the most recent ex, had even met him, but the one before that was a surprise.) – jamesqf Aug 20 '19 at 4:53

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