Joan Rivers Wished for a Hollywood Funeral … And Likely a Tax Deduction

Joan riversIt's no secret that Rivers hoped for a funeral that rivaled her lifestyle: big and over the top. She outlined her wishes in her 2012 book, I Hate Everyone…Starting With Me, writing: "When I die, I want my funeral to be a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action…I want Craft services, I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way. I don’t want some rabbi rambling on; I want Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents. I don’t want a eulogy; I want Bobby Vinton to pick up my head and sing “Mr. Lonely.” I want to look gorgeous, better dead than I do alive. I want to be buried in a Valentino gown and I want Harry Winston to make me a toe tag. And I want a wind machine so that even in the casket my hair is blowing just like Beyoncé’s."

Those arrangements, Forbes reports–Meryl Streep notwithstanding–would be easy to arrange with the late Joan Rivers’ money. The article is titled"Saying Goodbye To Joan Rivers: The Bigger The Funeral, The Bigger The Tax Deduction?"

Rivers' income from book royalties, appearance fees and salary at E! Television, plus sales of her QVC merchandise may have exceeded $1 billion. So, Joan could afford the big farewell.

The article mentions that Joan would have liked the fact that the expenses associated with her funeral are tax deductible for federal estate tax purposes. However, she would say, "Can We Talk?" about her estate being reduced by federal estate taxes in the first place. No one is certain of the exact amount of Rivers’ fortune, but even with estate planning her estate is probably going to owe a chunk of change to the government.

If a loved one passes this year, the exemption is $5,340,000, which means federal estate taxes are due on estates over that amount. But remember, the estate may claim some deductions against the gross estate, one of which is for funeral expenses. There is no dollar limit on the amount you can claim, but the deduction is limited to an amount “allowable under local law.” Forbes notes that this basically means that you cannot claim more in deductions than you can claim in assets. Deductible expenses in this area include funeral home and burial costs, as well as church services.  Remember you may only claim the deduction on the federal estate tax return for funeral expenses—not on your personal income tax return. Talk with your estate planning attorney to learn more.

You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: elder law planning in Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning. 

Reference: Forbes (September 7, 2014) "Saying Goodbye To Joan Rivers: The Bigger The Funeral, The Bigger The Tax Deduction?"


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