U.S. Estate Tax Is On Your Right to Transfer Property at Your Death

Some people we talk with are confused about what the U.S. Estate Tax is and on what basis that would be owed and paid.

According to the Internal Revenue Service the U.S. Estate Tax is a tax on your right to transfer property at your death.

This consists of an accounting of everything you own or have certain interests in at the date of death (Refer to Form 706).

The fair market value of these items is used, not necessarily what you paid for them or what their values were when you acquired them. The total of all of these items is your “Gross Estate.” The includible property may consist of cash and securities, real estate, insurance, trusts, annuities, business interests and other assets.

Once you have accounted for the Gross Estate, certain deductions (and in special circumstances, reductions to value) are allowed in arriving at your “Taxable Estate.” These deductions may include mortgages and other debts, estate administration expenses, property that passes to surviving spouses and qualified charities. The value of some operating business interests or farms may be reduced for estates that qualify.

After the net amount is computed, the value of lifetime taxable gifts (beginning with gifts made in 1977) is added to this number and the tax is computed. The tax is then reduced by the available unified credit.

Most relatively simple estates (cash, publicly traded securities, small amounts of other easily valued assets, and no special deductions or elections, or jointly held property) do not require the filing of an estate tax return. A filing is required for estates with combined gross assets and prior taxable gifts exceeding $1,500,000 in 2004 – 2005; $2,000,000 in 2006 – 2008; $3,500,000 for decedents dying in 2009; and $5,000,000 or more for decedent’s dying in 2010 and 2011 (note: there are special rules for decedents dying in 2010); $5,120,000 in 2012, $5,250,000 in 2013 and $5,340,000 in 2014.

Beginning January 1, 2011, estates of decedents survived by a spouse may elect to pass any of the decedent’s unused exemption to the surviving spouse. This election is made on a timely filed estate tax return for the decedent with a surviving spouse. Note that simplified valuation provisions apply for those estates without a filing requirement absent the portability election.

For additional information, refer to the IRS and its Instructions for Form 706.

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By Harrison K. Long. Source of information is the Internal Revenue Service. See http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Estate-Tax. This is for information only and is not the providing of professional estate planning or tax services or legal services. You should always consult with an experienced attorney or a certified public accountant about estate taxes for yourself and your family.

About Harrison K. Long

Professional real estate representative, Realtor, GRI, Broker associate, HomeSmart Evergreen Realty - Orange County, California - CALBRE #01410855 - Helping property owners, estate trustees, executors and administrators, fiduciaries, bankers, investor group managers, with listing and sale of properties - helping people with their best decisions about homes and real estate - Orange County Association of REALTORs (member with service on its board of directors 2012-2014); California Association of Realtors (member now serving on its board of directors); National Association of Realtors - Attorney member of the California State Bar Association #69137 - Contact by telephone or text at 949-701-2515. Thanks.
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