Laurene Powell Jobs might never find a better time to sell her late husband Steve’s $6.78 billion stake in Apple and Walt Disney Co., according to wealth management experts who talked to Bloomberg News. Jobs’ heirs could sell all their shares now and avoid $867 million in capital gains taxes. If Steve Jobs left everything to his wife, the family wouldn’t be liable for the 35% estate tax until she dies or gives money to others. “I can’t see any reason not to sell all of it,” said Kacy Gott of wealth-management firm Aspiriant. Another reason advisers said Jobs’ heirs should sell some stock to reduce the estate’s risks is that the capital gains tax is set to rise to 20% percent in 2013 from 15%. High-income Americans will also be subject to a 3.8% levy on unearned gains.
From an investment standpoint, all the advisers who spoke to Bloomberg said Jobs’ holdings should be more diversified — even though Disney and particularly Apple stock have performed better than Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway by comparison over corresponding time frames. Jobs owned 138 million Disney shares, valued Monday at $4.74 billion, and 5.55 million Apple shares worth $2.05 billion, according to filings. Jobs also moved his holdings into trusts as his health worsened. Trusts let people distribute wealth over time and avoid probate fees. If Jobs had sold all his Disney and Apple shares the day before he died, he would have registered a gain of about $5.78 billion and a tax bill of $867 million. That’s based on his investment of $55 million in Pixar Studios, now part of Disney, and Apple shares granted in March 2003. Disney stock would be more complicated to sell on the open market because the Jobs stake represents almost 12 times the average number of Disney shares traded each day. The Apple holdings amount to less than a third of the 17.6 million shares traded on a daily basis, making an open market sale much simpler.