At first blush, Casey Johnson and Ruth Lilly, who died within days of each other around the new year, could hardly have been more different. Johnson who died at 30, was a party animal who lived her life in the public eye, most recently as the fiancée of D-list celebrity Tila Tequila. Lilly, 94, made her biggest waves not with clubbing but philanthropy -- most famously with her $200 million donation in 2002 to the Poetry Foundation, a bequest so eye-popping that the controversy surrounding it hasn't yet died down.
But scratch the surface, and similarities emerge. Johnson and Lilly were both heiresses to major corporate fortunes: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY). Both had massive personal wealth tied up in trusts they couldn't access directly. And both fortunes illustrate a yearlong Congress-induced quirk that could greatly benefit the heirs to anyone who dies this year, cost the U.S. billions of tax revenue, and drive estate-planning lawyers crazy.
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Casey Johnson and Ruth Lilly: A Tale of Two Heiresses, Tax Loopholes, and Tequila