Like most Yankees fans, I have mixed feelings about Steinbrenner, who died today. His hubris brought the team both glory and ruin. But he loved the team, and he poured everything into it, which matters a great deal.
But whatever you think of how he managed the team, he certainly seems to have managed his death well. As a friend and fellow Yankee fan twitters, not only did Steinbrenner see to his succession planning well in advance, he's also saved his heirs a bundle by dying in 2010:
As last act of succession planning (& for good of the team), George died in 2010 - his family won't have to sell team to pay estate tax!
There's actually a pretty solid body of evidence that the estate tax can affect the timing of deaths. Right before it goes up, wealthy people have a tendency to die early; right before it goes down, they live longer than expected. There's always some dark muttering about heirs in the former case hastening the process, but you don't really need to posit this. People do frequently live just long enough to see some important event--a beloved grandchild's graduation or marriage, for example--than then expire quickly thereafter.
Even if ordinary mortals couldn't time their own death, I wouldn't put it past Steinbrenner. Whatever his flaws, the man had a titanic will. Which also, in the end, matters a great deal.