Taxes and Your Estate

One of the heaviest taxes that many people do not consider are the taxes on an estate that will be passed on to loved ones after the owners death. The most effective means by which most estate owners minimize this tax, is by gifting family members regularly, as well as creating an estate plan that is set up to handle tax liability, probate and inheritance effectively.*

Steps to Minimize Estate Taxes

  1. Remove life insurance proceeds from the estate of the taxpayer by removing the estate as a named beneficiary on the life insurance policy and the policy holder must not retain any rights in the policy at the time of death in order to remove the tax liability from the estate.
  2. Gifting the value of an estate to family members, up to the allowable gift exclusion, can significantly reduce the estate tax of an individual estate. With gifting of assets, the proper time, amount, type and documentation are critically important to achieving the desired tax benefits for the estate.
  3. Estate taxes may also be decreased in the estate leaves a portion of the assets to a qualified charity.

Joint Estate Ownership Benefits and Liability

Joint ownership of real estate can have positive and negative impacts on the estate when a family member dies. When assets are jointly owned with the included rights of survivorship, the death of one joint owner had the practical impact of terminating that particular ownership interest and passing the interest on to the surviving owner.

A benefit of joint ownership at death is that estate usually avoids the probate process, but there are also substantial disadvantages from a tax and estate planning perspective.

Additionally, the creditors of a individual with joint ownership may be able to access the property of the individual who died; whereas the property would be free from the creditor if the joint-ownership structure did not exist.

The property also becomes more difficult to see when it is joint ownership because the consent and signatures of all joint owners must be present in order to sell the property or amend the deed.

How to File a Federal Estate Tax Return

The Federal Estate Tax Return, also known as Form 706 must be filed on behalf of the estate of every United States citizen who has a gross estate that is worth more than $3.5 million.

In order to determine whether a Federal Estate Tax Return must be filed, the following should be assessed and added:

The adjusted taxable gifts; plus:

  • The total specific exemption allowed under § 2521
  • The gross estate value at the date of the testator's death

If required to file the Federal Estate Tax Return, the estate must both file the return and pay any applicable estate taxes within 9 months after the testator has died.

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*Estate planning is outside the scope of this guide. For more information, consult with an estate planning attorney.

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