Estate Tax Law

Most governments impose tax on a person’s right to transfer his property in the event of his death; this tax is called estate tax. It should be noted that this tax is not calculated on the purchase price or the value at the time of purchase. Rather, it is computed on the fair market value of the property.

Gross Estate under Estate tax law

The estate can include any kind of property-cash, securities, real estate, insurance etc. The total property is termed as the gross estate. The gross estate includes both non-probate and probate property. Also, the gross estate does not include the property owned by the spouse of the deceased or by any other individual. In addition, completed lifetime gifts do not form part of the estate.

Taxable estate

The taxable estate is arrived at by deducting certain items from the gross estate:

  • Debts
  • Marital deduction- this property forms part of gross estate and passes on to the spouse of the deceased.
  • Charitable deduction- This property is willed to a charity by the deceased person.
  • Expenses related to the estate
  • Losses incurred by the estate

Estate tax

The estate representative should file the estate tax. He’s required to fill in a number of forms and also submit copies of the following:

  • Death certificate
  • Will of the decedent
  • Appraisal of the estate
  • Documents related to litigation involving the estate

Need for an estate tax law attorney

The estate tax law can be quite complicated and the representative should take into consideration the following factors:

Complexity of the estate

If there are too many complications in the estate like claims made by individuals, then professional help will be required.

Size of the estate

Large estates with values exceeding $1,000,000 will attract a lot of taxes and an attorney well versed in estate tax law needs to be hired.

State of Records

If the records of the estate are clear and in order, the representatives of the estate can take care of the formalities themselves. But if there are missing or conflicting records, it is better to appoint an attorney to handle issues related to estate tax law.


If the number of beneficiaries is small, compliance with estate tax law is that much easier for the estate representative. However, in the case of a large number of beneficiaries, it might be difficult. A strained relationship between them will make matters even worse and it is advisable to hire an attorney.

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