Estate and Gift Tax
Will my beneficiaries have to pay estate taxes when I die?
In 2017, an individual can die with up to $5.49 million (lifetime exclusion amount) and no estate tax will be due. The tax rate for estates above the lifetime exclusion amount is 40%. There is an unlimited exemption for assets passing to your surviving spouse if your spouse is a US citizen. Typically, this means that no tax will be due on the first death; however, without proper planning, the surviving spouse’s estate may be burdened with a larger estate tax.
What is included in my estate?
According to the IRS, your gross estate includes “the value of all property in which you had an interest at the time of death.” This includes all real property and personal property. The simplest examples are those assets which are in your name alone, such as a bank account, real estate, stocks and bonds, and furniture, furnishings and jewelry. Additionally, property held in joint tenancy may be included in your estate as well as assets transferred to your revocable trust.
The value of your estate is equal to the “fair market value” of each asset that you own, minus your debts including a mortgage on your home or a loan on your car.
The value of your estate is important in determining whether, and to what extent, your estate will be subject to estate taxes upon your death. Planning for the resources needed to meet that obligation at your death is another important part of the estate planning process.