Duncan's billions may pass tax-free to heirs

HOUSTON The New York Times reports that Dan Duncan's $9 billion estate could pass on to his heirs tax free. The reason is that Congress allowed the death tax to lapse for a year, which gives all estates a free pass on taxes this year.

Duncan died in March of a brain hemorrhage.

A businessman and a philanthropist

Dan Duncan was the richest man in Houston and he consistently made the Forbes list of top 100 millionaires or above. He was not a household name, and that's probably how he liked it. But Duncan left a very large footprint, certainly at the Texas Medical Center.

Duncan was a Texas energy tycoon, but his life was more interesting than that. He was a self-made billionaire who worked for a time as a roughneck, but his friends say it was his character that made him stand out.

Dr. William Butler, President of Baylor College of Medicine, said, "He was a gracious soul and a fine gentleman and the nicest kind of person you'd like to have as your friend."

And he was a friend to the Texas Medical Center. Treated successfully for prostate cancer by Baylor doctors 15 years ago, he later became one of the medical school's trustees. He gave generously throughout the Medical Center for research -- $135 million to Baylor, millions to MD Anderson, the Texas Heart Institute. The Duncan Pediatric Neurological Center at Texas Children's Hospital is still under construction.

All told, Dan Duncan lived a prosperous life that gave back to others. What he left here is a gift that will continue to give.

"Many people know they can't take it with them," Dr. Butler said. "But they could leave it in hands that would allow the betterment of the community. I think Dan was that kind of person."

Duncan co-founded Enterprise Products Company in 1968 and took Enterprise Products Partners public in July 1998.

He passed away in March at his River Oaks home. He was 77 years old. He is survived by his wife, Jan, four children and four grandchildren.

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