A recent article from WealthManagement.com about potential changes to the federal estate tax may have important implications for you in the near future. While no specific plan has been presented, it is important to continuously evaluate your estate plan and stay abreast of any potential changes to the law that could affect your assets.
What is the federal estate tax?
The federal estate tax, sometimes disparagingly referred to as a death tax, is a tax imposed on your right to transfer property valued over a certain amount that kicks in when assets are distributed to heirs according to a Decedent’s will or intestate succession in the case of death without a valid will in place. The threshold for exempt estates changes year-by-year according to a formula approved by Congress. Basically, upon death an estate is appraised and given a value from which certain deductions can then be made. Once such eligible deductions are made, a “Taxable Estate” value remains. For Decedent’s passing in 2017, the federal estate tax only applies to estates with a taxable value of $5,490,000 or more. If a Decedent’s estate has a leftover exemption value – in other words, if a Decedent’s estate is less than the threshold for the year in which the death occurs – and leaves behind a surviving spouse, the remainder of the Decedent’s exemption may be passed on to the surviving spouse which could result in a higher exemption for that spouse. There are several other complex provisions related to how an estate is given its taxable value that an experienced estate planning attorney can help you understand.