This isn't just about the wealthy. Middle class families with small family owned and operated businesses can not afford to keep these businesses running if the owner dies. It discourages this type of family owned and operated businesses which in the past have often been the fabric of small, rural communities. Family owned businesses can operate with the values they see fit for their communities, unlike large corporations that operate solely to make a profit. It is a burden on these families and prevents this type of arrangement from ever existing. Working with family makes families closer. Before the Industrial Revolution, families worked together on farms. After children and spouses were separated all day by lengthy hours in factories. How does encouraging this separation build better, stronger communities?
The estate is meant to be a legacy to the children, spouses and other loved ones of the deceased, not to the government. As the taxes on most of the left behind estate were paid in the deceased living years, continuing to tax is more to me like a double dip.
An estate tax is a tax on income derived from someone's will or trust passed onto an heir. The difficulty is that most of this income (except for a life insurance disbursement), has already had income taxes paid upon it! An estate tax basically taxes the same money twice. The United States' estate tax should be gotten rid of in all cases except for a life insurance disbursement.
Income belongs to one who earned it. If its regular income, they have paid their share of taxes on it. If its investment, they may/may not have paid taxes. Regardless, it is their wealth and they get to decide who benefits from it. Upon death, their choice of beneficiary must be honored. If they choose to leave wealth to their offsprings, so be it. It may be a bad decision because it discourages their offspring from working, but still it is their decision. If they decide to leave it to charity or government, it is still their decision. Government cannot and should not impose regulations on how or who a private citizen chooses to leave his/her wealth to.
Someone who obtains there wealth by inheritance should have to pay as much in tax as the poor slob who does manual labor. If we really value work, why do we tax wages but not the inheritance of wealth? A $2 million exemption turns out to be $4 million if you have a spouse. I'd also give an exemption for any amount you give to a charity.
No, the estate tax should be maintained. The estate tax puts a check on hereditary oligarchy. It serves to put a small check on the ultra-wealthy from creating generations that simply thrive based on a past generation's luck and fortune. To an extent, this encourages individuals to work hard for what they earn.
It is not a double tax considering the absurd amounts of money being paid to inheritors has not been earned by the inheritor.
Further, this is only in relation to the largest inheritances. The first $5,340,000 of an estate is exempt from the estate tax and there is no limit on how much may be transferred. Bounds of reason make for a better society.