Understanding the Basics

Some Basic Estate Tax Concepts

In 2012 the estate and gift tax exemption (per individual) was set to $5.12 million, with a top tax rate of 35 percent. Now in 2015 the highest tax bracket is 40% and the estate and gift tax exemption (per individual) was increased to $5.43 million. With these multiple changes in estate tax laws, it is very important that you consult a trusted and knowledgeable estate and tax professional to help you in your planning decisions.

The unused portion of the estate tax exemption carries over to the surviving spouse. For example, if in 2015 the husband dies and does not fully use his estate tax exemption, the deceased husband's unused exemption can be attributed to the wife, so that when she dies, her estate plan can use both her unused estate tax exemption and her late husband's unused exemption. Thus, a married couple can easily shelter $10.86 million of assets.

See the section Estate and Gift Taxes for more information.

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