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'Downton Abbey' Season 4, Episode 1: Lady Mary socked with inheritance taxes

"Downton Abbey" inheritance taxes consume Lady Mary's mind after the death of her husband.
"Downton Abbey" inheritance taxes consume Lady Mary's mind after the death of her husband.

When "Downton Abbey" premiered their Season 4 episode on Sunday night, they didn't trouble the audience with the immediate aftereffects on Lady Mary following her husband Matthew Crawley's death. Instead, the PBS Masterpiece hit jumped forward by six months and reminded this century another painful blow that death of a husband brings his widow: inheritance taxes.

The Jan. 5 premiere recap by Yahoo News didn't delve into just how much it would take to pay the inheritance taxes on the Downton home, otherwise known in real life as the Highclere Castle. But a 5,000-acre estate that is so large even the owners can't give an exact account of the number of rooms it has would likely be far more than most widows could afford.

Lady Mary spends a good part of the premier being encouraged by Mr. Carson to not let herself "be defeated" by the death of her husband, while her brother-in-law Tom Branson takes a different approach, encouraging her to take on the running of the estate, so she will be kept busy and, hopefully, not give in to depression and grief.

The widow's father, Lord Grantham, doesn't want his daughter tasked with dealing with "death duties" as he calls the financial responsibility of inheritance taxes. But his mother thinks he's just wanting to rule the roost again, and to put things back in place that Matthew had changed when he took over the estate handling.

"Downton Abbey" Season 4's premier reminds Americans and those abroad that the death of a spouse doesn't just exact an emotional toll on the marital partner left behind; it also exacts a financial cost if any property was owned and can be taxed. And that can hit a widow doubly hard. But it looks like fictional Lady Mary is up to the task, at least in the eyes of Tom and Mr. Carson.

There will be no death taxes involved in the winning of the HGTV Dream Home 2014 this year, the person who wins that will face taxation as well, and that entire prize package, valued at $2 million, will also include $250,000 in cash and a 2015 Yukon Denali vehicle too, making it likely that as much as $600,000 in taxes will be due from the owner for their bountiful winning fortune.

Fortunately, options exist for the winner of this property just like they exist for Lady Mary of the fictional PBS hit. But the options aren't the same for her as they are for the winner of the HGTV Dream Home. She has to come up with the money to pay her death tax duties someway, somehow. The dream home winner can choose to take a lump sum offered by the cable network holding the sweepstakes contest instead of taking the Lake Tahoe Home, and then they will have the money to pay taxes on their financial winnings out of it. It's a win-win for them.

To enter to win a trip abroad to see the real home where Lady Mary lives in the fictional PBS world, enter the 2014 Masterpiece Sweepstakes here. The trip will include many amenities and hotel accommodations in addition to a VIP reception at Highclere Castle and more. But hurry, entries are only accepted once daily until March 15.

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