Monday, November 11, 2013

Estate of Maxwell v. Commissioner case brief

Estate of Maxwell v. Commissioner case brief summary
3 F.3d 591 (1993)

Petitioners, estate and executors, appealed from a decision entered in the United States Tax Court affirming the assessment of tax deficiencies by respondent Commissioner of Internal Revenue against the estate on grounds that the conveyance of decedent's personal residence during her life constituted a transfer with retained life estate within the meaning of26 U.S.C.S. § 2036.


The decedent conveyed her personal residence to her son and his wife pursuant to a mortgage and lease agreement. Following the transfer, the decedent continued to reside in the house until her death. Respondent Commissioner of Internal Revenue assessed tax against petitioners, estate and executors, for the value of the house. Under I.R.C. § 2036(a), where property was disposed of by a decedent during her lifetime but the decedent retained "possession or enjoyment" of it until her death, that property was taxable as part of the decedent's gross estate, unless the transfer was a bona fide sale for an "adequate and full" consideration. 26 U.S.C.S. § 2036.


  • The tax court affirmed the assessment, and on subsequent review, the court determined the decedent had retained a life estate in the property. 
  • The transfer was not a bona fide sale because decedent's "rent" payments were almost equal to the mortgage interest, and there was no indication the deceased had intended to collect on the mortgage principal. 
  • The court determined that, at the time of the transaction, there was no real expectation of the intent to enforce collection of the mortgage.

The decision of the tax court affirming respondent Commissioner of Internal Revenue's assessment of tax deficiencies against petitioners, estate and executors, was affirmed because the conveyance of the decedent's property was not a bona fide sale for an adequate and full consideration in money or money's worth. The decedent retained possession or enjoyment of the property following the transfer and did not intend to collect on the mortgage.

Suggested Study Aids For Wills, Trusts & Estate Law

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