The Taxman Cometh
APRIL 15, 2010
By Susan McRae
Daily Journal Staff Writer
Have you heard the one about the university committee that was selecting a new dean? They narrowed the candidates down to a mathematician, an economist and a tax lawyer.
During their interview, each was asked: "How much is two plus two?"
The mathematician answered immediately, "Four."
The economist thought for several minutes and finally answered, "Four, plus or minus one."
Finally, the tax lawyer stood up, peered around the room and motioned silently for the committee members to gather close. In a hushed, conspiratorial tone, he replied, "How much do you want it to be?"
Jokes aside, mention the words "tax lawyer" and it often conjures nerdy CPA types, who get excited about things like intrinsic negative value transfers and pore over arcane areas of law, trying to figure out how to save the rich even more piles of money than they already have.
But there's another side, a human side, filled with wit, intrigue, heroics and, yes, even a sense of humor, that often never gets told.
For Los Angeles tax attorney Victor Yoo, representing a longtime client brought an unexpected turn, when the woman uncovered what might turn out to be a small fortune.
The woman came to Yoo seven years ago, initially seeking help with a dispute she was having with her bankruptcy lawyer over the way he was handling the bankruptcy of her shipping business. Yoo managed to settle the dispute, and the woman retained him to represent her in other business litigation and tax matters.
Several years ago, the woman developed heart problems. Her doctor told her that her particular condition usually was hereditary. Normally, to determine the actual manifestation, the patient would look to their parents. But, in his client's case, her parents had divorced when she was a young child. She had not seen her father since, but had been told he had a similar medical condition.
While she had been curious about her father for years, her mother always discouraged her from trying to find him, saying he had his own life now and shouldn't be disturbed. But now she had a reason to renew her search.
She found an article about him on the Internet. He had been living in another state and, to her surprise, was one of the wealthiest men in town. He had died two years before without a will, leaving behind an estate valued at more than $12 million. She showed the article to her mother and confirmed that the man was her father. An obituary of him, with a photo, further confirmed it. The money from the estate had been disbursed to a surviving brother and sister.
Yoo has petitioned the court on behalf of his client to get a determination of heirship. The siblings, needless to say, are shocked at the turn of events, he said.
Yoo has asked that all the money be returned to the estate. His client has been struggling to pay back taxes stemming from the earlier bankruptcy, he said. This could be an answer to her problems, he added, a real Cinderella story.
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