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Collateral Inheritance, Legacy
EMBRACING THE AMERICAN AND MANY ENGLISH DECISIONS,
WITH FORMS FOR NEW YORK STATE, AND AN APPENDIX
MARYLAND, AND CONNECTICUT,
BENJ. F. DOS PASSOS,
ASS'T DIST. ATT'Y N. Y. COUNTY.
63 Nassau Street.
The subject of general taxation, for State and Governmental purposes, forms, undoubtedly, one of the leading questions of the day.
What property, what persons or corporations, shall be taxed; when, where and how taxes shall be levied and collected, are problems which have already consumed much of the time, and perplexed the thoughts of many leading lawyers, statesmen and economists in this country.
But no satisfactory, uniform, logical system has as yet been adopted-I might say, conceived.
Standing alone, as it were, upon its own foundations, based upon grounds incontrovertible, the taxation comprehensively known in this country as the “collateral inheritance tax," seems to have evoked the sanction of all classes of writers and thinkers who have considered the question.
After a person is dead, and no longer capable of directing or controlling his wealth, the State, in accordance with one of the fundamental principles of social organization, steps in, continues the ownership, and permits the owner to designate either his direct or collateral heirs, or even a total stranger to his blood, to receive his inheritance. Or, if he should die without a written testament, it practically accomplishes the same results through general statutes of descent and distribution, which devolve the property of the intestate upon his direct or collateral heirs.
While it has been stoutly questioned by some theorists, whether, when a man dies, and has neither the power to control nor the necessity to use his property, it should not wholly revert to the State, the argument cannot be treated as being of much practical importance.
The course of all civilized nations has definitely settled the question in favor of continuing the ownership.
But, as the State becomes the agent, instrument, or power, for distributing the wealth of the deceased, it seems to be conceded, upon the best possible grounds, that, for this service, it should levy a tax upon the property devolving upon the heirs.
While the argument applies almost with equal force to inheritances by direct heirs, and it has been so extended in England and by continental nations, in the few American States which have so far adopted this principle of taxation, the legislation has confined the tax to those cases where the property eventually devolves upon collateral heirs and strangers to the blood, turning over the property, in solido, to the direct heirs, unincumbered by any tax.
Considering the support which this tax has received from writers and judges, and the manifestly equitable grounds upon which it rests, it is quite surprising that it has not been adopted in all of the States of the Union. Yet, the fact is, that the collateral inheritance tax exists in about nine States only, all the federal statutes imposing the succession and legacy taxes being repealed. It was first introduced