Monthly Archives: June 2012

Stieg Larsson died with no will

Stieg Larsson, the man who wrote the milenium trilogy including the novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, died suddenly in 2004 at the age of 50. At the time of his death, he was not yet famous and he was living modestly with his partner, Eva Gabrielsson. In fact, they had been living together in Sweden for 32 years.

Larsson spent his career investigating rightwing extremism and received many death threats. He feared that getting married would make them an even bigger target. Despite that, he and Eva finally set a date for the ceremony but Larsson died before it could take place.

The couple had talked about setting up a company in which the two of them would share all of their assets as well as any money earned for writing books and articles. The company would provide that if one of them died, the other one would get everything. Because of this plan, Larsson felt that a will would be unnecessary and so never prepared one. But the company was not set up before Larsson’s death.

Sweden has no provision in their law for inheritance by common-law spouses so when Larsson died without a will, his brother and father inherited everything he owned, including the rights to his books and the profits that the 50 million copies sold made.

In 2007, the family gave Gabrielsson ownership of the modest apartment in which she and Larsson had lived and offered her $2.75 million. She turned down the offer because she wants control of the estate so she can manage the handling of the books, including movie and other publication rights. There is a partial manuscript for a 4th book in the series; since she supposedly helped Larsson write the trilogy and the manuscript is in her possession, she could finish the novel but she refuses to hand it over to Larsson’s family.

If only Larsson had written a will, settlement of the estate could have been handled smoothly and in a timely manner. Instead, in 2012 (more than 8 years later), the dispute is still going on.

Don’t put yourself in this position. Make sure you have a will so your estate will go to the person you want it to….not the one the government dictates. For more information about this topic, go to

Do you want to live or die in New Jersey?

Several years ago after my dad died in New Jersey, my brother and I were shocked when we realized how much money we were going to have to pay to the state in inheritance and estate taxes. The percentage was huge, especially compared to almost any other state in the US. Evidently, we were not alone in being shocked by New Jersey’s tax rules.

According to a study recently commissioned by Charles Steindel, chief economist of the New Jersey Department of the Treasury (and former senior vice president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank), 25,000 people moved away from New Jersey between 2004 and 2009. Why? In 2004, the state’s highest income tax rate was raised from 6.37% to 8.97% for those making $500,000 or more, and in 2009 a one year 10.75% tax rate was assessed on those making $1 million or more.

In addition to such high income tax, New Jersey is one of only two states (Maryland is the other) with both a state estate tax and a state inheritance tax; this is a problem for those who would like to leave at least the majority of their wealth to their loved ones when they die.

Steindel also conducted a survey of subscribers to the state’s online newsletter Tax Notes, which keeps professionals such as financial advisers, accountants and attorneys up to date on changes in law, rules and court decisions governing tax matters. Subscribers include advisers to high-wealth clients.

More than half of the respondents said that clients had recently left or expressed interest in leaving the state. Respondents said the top three reasons that clients gave for leaving were state income taxes (85.4 percent), local property taxes (77 percent) and estate taxes (67 percent). The next two reasons most-often cited were retirement (47.6 percent) and housing costs (43.7 percent).

So if you live in New Jersey and you have any assets, consider moving to a more tax friendly, or non-taxing, state like Florida.